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Ten Antwerp port workers arrested in cocaine investigation

© Paul Leysen for Unsplash

Ten key workers in the Port of Antwerp have been arrested in connection with a major investigation into drugs trafficking, the city’s prosecutor’s office has confirmed.

The ten are all employed in important positions at the port, which can be exploited by drugs criminals to allow their wares to pass through the port without being intercepted.

The action, which took place yesterday morning, is connected to the recent Operation Sky, where police succeeded in breaking the encryption of Sky ECC phones, allowing them to follow conversations of criminal gangs unhindered.

That led in April to the seizure of more than 27 tonnes of cocaine. Since then, investigations have continued.

That data has provided elements in current cases, but new criminal offences are also coming to light,” the prosecutor’s office told Gazet Van Antwerpen.

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Yesterday, federal judicial police officers raided 24 addresses in Antwerpen, Wuustwezel, Merksem, Wilrijk and Sint-Niklaas, involving people in key positions at the port.

[These people] work for transport companies, at port terminals, shipping companies, forwarding offices or security companies,” said spokesperson Kristof Aerts.

They [allegedly] misuse their respective functions to pass on important information or to provide services to criminal organisations which in turn misuse the port for the international trafficking of narcotics.”

One of the ten suspects was arrested in Rotterdam, and will be delivered to the Antwerp authorities. The others will be brought before an investigating magistrate for questioning.

During the searches of the various addresses, police seized handbags, luxury watches, jewellery, cars and €40,000 in cash.

The company that makes the Sky ECC encrypted phones has all along denied that international police forces have cracked their code, which would automatically make their business worthless.

Nonetheless, police in Belgium and elsewhere continue to use the information they have gathered to crack down on organised criminal organisations, based on intelligence gathered from months of covert surveillance.