Port police chief says ‘logistics process wide open to drugs criminals’

Drugs gangs have the run of the logistics process at Rotterdam port, enabled by widespread criminal infiltration at shipping companies, the head of the port police has told the NRC.

The Netherlands is the main European distribution centre for drugs and Rotterdam port is key because of widespread corruption at port-related companies, Jan Janse, who heads the port’s Hit and Run Cargo Team, told the paper.

The lucrative trade in cocaine, brought to the country in containers from South America, has been responsible for a surge in organised crime at the port, he said. Janse and his team, made up of the fraud office, customs, police and the prosecution department, intercepted nearly 41 tonnes of cocaine at the port last year.

Customs officials determine which containers go through a scanner, for example, while criminals working for shipping companies can get hold of the ownership codes for containers so they can be driven away without checks. This has happened 220 times in the last two and a half years, Janse said.

‘Customs officers only check a fraction of the containers. According to international rules, shipping companies know which of the containers will be scanned. That information also finds its way to the gangs. It can take up to five days for the containers to be scanned and in that time its contents are removed by the criminals,’ he said.

The port police catch some 300 ‘uithalers’ (removers) a year. ‘All of them have been helped by people on the inside. Every single one of them,’ he said.

Lack of staff

Janse said that only a quarter of all drug hauls are investigated further because of a shortage of staff and that his team remains 18-people strong, despite the increase in seizures. ‘It’s absurd really that the minister has not allocated more people to the team,’ he said

A vital component in the fight against drugs criminality is to cooperate with the shipping companies and security firms, he said.

‘They are unhappy with the situation too. You have to have structural talks with them to stop the holes in their logistics chain and work with the ports of Antwerp and Hamburg,’ he said.

‘Criminals are always on the look-out for new ways in. Because we have not worked closely enough with companies the logistical process is wide open to criminals.’

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