Saturday 01 October 2022

Netherlands ‘market leader’ in production and trade synthetic drugs

Some of the confiscated drugs. Photo:

The Netherlands is world leader in the production and trading of synthetic drugs such as XTC and amphetamines, with total turnover up to 2017 estimated at €18.9bn, according to a report by researchers at the Dutch police academy.

The researchers say that their estimate is a conservative one and that the real amount is likely to be ‘many times higher’, with the national turnover of synthetic drugs thought to be between €3bn to €5bn.

Good infrastructure and a central geographical position are making the Netherlands a good place to base both legal and illegal business activities, the report says. A tolerant drugs climate, too few officials to clamp down on synthetic drugs production and relatively low penalties make it particularly attractive for drugs criminals, the report said.

The criminal synthetic drugs scene has become more violent and there are other dangers to public health, such as illegal labs in neighbourhoods and pollution as a result of dumping chemical waste in the countryside.

‘A broad approach by the Dutch government should be a top priority’, the researchers write.


In a reaction justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said the situation is ‘a disgrace’ and that he wants to ‘get tough and eradicate the whole criminal economy’. Some €100m has been earmarked for the purpose and the number of specialised police officers will be expanded by 110.

According to research team leader Pieter Tops, the measures are a start. ‘But it’s not nearly enough,’ he told broadcaster NOS. Tops says the public prosecution office and the courts also needs more staff.

The Netherlands should also talk to China which is the source of most of the chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs, Tops said.

You can read an abridged version of the report in English here

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