German and Dutch police have seized the biggest haul of illegal fireworks in their history following the arrest of 10 members of a criminal gang.
Some 350,000 kilos of fireworks, imported from Italy, Poland and China and bound for the Dutch illegal market, were discovered in the former Nato bunkers in Rheine near the Dutch city of Enschedé. Last year police seized around 120,000 kilos of illegal fireworks in the same place.
Kingpins of the gang were three Dutch nationals aged 27, 31 and 34 from Nieuwegein. Police started following their trail two years ago prompted by intercepted messages on encrypted service provider Encrochat.
The bunkers, which were piled high with boxes containing the fireworks, did not comply with any safety norms, police fireworks expert Erik Kooijker said.
Heavy fireworks are increasingly used in violent incidents involving organised crime and for blowing up cash machines, Kooijker said. ‘Traders, buyers and transporters don’t care about safety and take huge risks storing the fireworks in sheds, garages and homes. A mass explosion in a neighbourhood would lead to fatalities and untold damage.’
Police say the operation has dealt ‘a heavy blow to the illegal fireworks trade’. Last polices seized nearly 206 tonnes of fireworks were seized, and in 2020 nearly 123 tonnes.
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