Belgian police forces arrested a former gendarmerie chief and one of the members of the infamous Aquino family during searches in several locations as part of an investigation into large-scale cocaine trafficking.
Investigators from the federal justice police in the Limburg and Antwerp province searched several locations, mainly in the Limburg province, on Monday and arrested former gendarmerie chief Willy Van Mechelen (77), reports the Belga press agency.
One of the members of the Aquino family – of which several other members have previously been sentenced to prison for drug-related crimes – was also arrested.
Some of the suspects were also said to have a link to the motorbike gang Bandidos, and a lawyer was arrested as well.
According to VRT, Van Mechelen was arrested as the main suspect in a case involving the import of thousands of kilos of cocaine.
The investigation began after a shipment of almost 3,000 kilos of cocaine was discovered in the port of Antwerp at the end of 2019. Dozens of searches have led to the seizure of millions of euros in cash, gold and luxury cars.
Van Mechelen was head of the drugs section of the Antwerp police (BOB), until it was discovered that he himself had imported tons of drugs. In 2002, the Antwerp Court of Appeal sentenced him to five years in prison for international drug trafficking, but he managed to slip through the cracks in the police network. It was only in 2011 that he could be arrested in the Netherlands, where he lived in hiding.
The possibility cannot be ruled out that further actions will follow in the next few days, but the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office will not communicate about the case until later this week.
The Brussels Times