Share article:
Share article:

Lockdown did nothing to stifle drugs trade

Customs' sideloader scanner can pick out a container and take it off to be scanned. © VRT

Customs authorities seized a total of 28.865 tonnes of illegal drugs in the first six months of this year – five tonnes more than in the same period in 2019, according to figures from the federal finance ministry.

While the rest of the country was in lockdown, the drugs dealers were hard at work doing almost one-quarter more business than usual.

It’s clear that the drugs mafia has not been idle, and wanted to take advantage of the global crisis,” a ministry spokesperson said.

The news comes as no surprise, though. Customs have seized record quantities of cocaine in the port of Antwerp for seven years in a row – an increase of 660% since 2013. What is surprising is that the trend held even with the world in crisis and lockdowns in many countries other than Belgium.

But the quantities seized are only a small part of the quantities being traded, which means there is always room for more successes on the side of the customs service. They are now investing in new equipment to increase the chance catching contraband by checking containers.

With its new ‘sideloader’ scanner, customs can now remove containers from the unloading quays to scan them in two dimensions – horizontally and vertically. According to the ministry, the advantage is that customs are no longer dependent on transporters and logistics companies to deliver containers to the fixed scanners.

The trend was already clear in April, when customs reported the interception of unusually large shipments of cocaine.

Between March 27 and 30, we discovered more than 1.6 tonnes of cocaine in three different seizures,” said Francis Adyns of the finance ministry in April. “In addition, it each time involved large quantities, of 300-700 kg a time. That is quite unusual at this time of the year.”

Normally, he explained, the big catches come in the Christmas and New Year period and in the summer holidays.

South America remains the predominant source of drugs headed for Antwerp, led by Ecuador (10,700 kg), Brazil (5,214 kg) and Paraguay (4,478 kg), followed by the United States (1,485 kg) and Costa Rica (1,287 kg).

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Aggression against railway staff more than doubled since 2020
In the first three quarters of 2021, the number of reports of aggression against national railway company SNCB's staff has more than doubled compared ...
Intervention hotline 1722 activated following bad weather warnings
Following bad weather warnings from Belgium's Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (RMI), the Federal Public Service (FPS) Home Affairs has ...
Thousands march in Brussels to raise awareness of violence against women
More than 3,000 people took to the streets of Brussels on Sunday afternoon for a national march to raise awareness of violence against women in ...
Efficacy of vaccines against new variant known in a few weeks, virologist says
The efficacy of the current coronavirus vaccines against the new Omicron variant will be clear in one to two weeks, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst ...
Scientists could have communicated better during pandemic, survey shows
The majority of Flemish people continue to trust scientists, however, only half of them feel scientists communicated understandably during the ...
Closing borders and new travel restrictions: Countries react to Omicron variant
As more cases of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus are being reported across the world, more and more countries are imposing tougher travel ...
Several rush hour train services to be scrapped from Monday
Up to ten peak time trains to and from Brussels will be temporarily cancelled starting from Monday, Belgian railway company SNCB announced this ...
Europe’s largest vintage clothes store is in Ghent this weekend
Europe's largest pop-up store for second-hand clothes is once again setting up shop in Ghent on Sunday, offering more than five tonnes of vintage ...
Animal welfare in EU’s pig meat sector: What’s wrong?
EU has put into place legislation to ensure that animal welfare conditions are respected in its agricultural policy but the breaches of its ...
‘Not feasible’: Doctors refuse to follow new testing strategy
Doctors have warned they will not follow the government's adapted testing strategy which would see vaccinated people who were in close contact with a ...
Flanders introduces ‘invisible’ speed cameras
New digital speed cameras that are essentially invisible to the road user are being introduced on various roads and motorways in Flanders, Flemish ...
Warnings issued for slippery roads across Belgium
Drivers have been asked to watch out for slippery roads from Saturday afternoon until Sunday evening, as snow and cold temperatures are expected ...