Cocaine seizures top 4.7 tonnes in weeks around Christmas

Part of one haul. Photo:
Part of one haul. Photo:

Customs officers seized over 4.7 tonnes of cocaine at Rotterdam port between December 24 and January 4, with a total street value of €354 million, the public prosecution department has confirmed.

In addition, 34 people were arrested, including a 16-year-old, the department said. Most of them had been brought in to remove the drugs from shipping containers once they had docked.

The first arrest took place on Christmas Eve when officials saw someone leaving the port with ‘two well-filled bags’ and getting into a car. They then found 35 kilos of cocaine on the back seat of the vehicle.

In the following days, more drugs were found in a container with frozen fruit juice from Brazil and a consignment of bananas from Ecuador.

The biggest seizure was made on Tuesday, when cocaine was found hidden in three containers. One of them, originating in Chile, had 1.7 tonnes of the drug hidden between boxes of shoes.

In September 2021, European policing organisation Europol published a report saying 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.

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