The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain have agreed to work more closely together to combat organised crime, citing the ‘fundamental threat … on the values and functioning of our society.’
The four countries issued a joint statement on Thursday outlining their concerns, in particular, the way ‘organised crime networks are increasing their foothold in our neighbourhoods and communities.’
The project involves working together to reduce criminal networks and businesses, catch and convict criminals and seize and confiscate their assets. The main focus will be on the illegal drugs trade, with particular emphasis on ‘vulnerabilities’ in the financial and logistics sectors, including sea ports, airports and postal services.
‘If the Dutch police come across important information, it is important that this can be quickly shared with the Spanish or French police,’ Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said. ‘Then joint action can be taken against international criminal groups and their assets in Europe as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean.’
Europol said in September that the increased use of shipping containers to conceal drugs has made the high volume ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg the new epicentre of the European cocaine market.
While Antwerp is the biggest arrival port for cocaine, most of the drug is ‘is likely intended for organisations operating out of the Netherlands, from where the cocaine is further distributed to other European destinations, Europol said.
Drugs-related crime costs Dutch society between €3.2bn and €4.1bn a year, according to a report drawn up on behalf of the justice ministry.
In total, combating illegal drugs costs the police some €1.1bn to €1.6bn a year while court cases and prisons add almost a billion more to the total bill. Research suggests that 20% of all people spending time in prison have a link to the drugs trade.
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