Saturday 04 February 2023

Police release footage of torture chamber in shipping container

A still from the video released by Brabant police.

Dutch police have released chilling footage showing seven sea containers in the Noord-Brabant village of Wouwse Plantage which were in the process of being converted into a torture chamber and a makeshift prison.

One of the containers had been sound-proofed and equipped with a dentist’s chair nailed to the floor, along with an assortment of pliers, saws, handcuffs and scalpels. Police said it did not appear to have been used.

The discovery was made after police broke into the encrypted messenging service EncroChat, which is widely used by criminals. They were able to identify and alert the intended victims and arrest six men.

The six are facing charges of preparing to kidnap, serious assault, extortion and membership of a criminal organisation. Two of the men were also charged with the illegal possession of weapons.

Police were already on the trail of a 40-year-old man from The Hague, police chief Jannine van den Berg said. ‘He kept below the radar but an investigation of his financial dealings showed he was probably using a storage container in Wouwse Plantage,’ Van den Berg said.

Subsequent information from the intercepted messages, such as photographs of a sea container with the dentist’s chair and talk of torture methods and abduction, eventually led police to the grisly find. ‘Once I have him in the chair we’ll know more’ and ‘but the dog has disappeared’ were among the messages exchanged via the network.

The sea containers were kept under observation and police decided to intervene when it looked like the complex was nearing completion. On June 22 police searched 13 locations and arrested six men. Some 24 kilos of the drug mdma were found, as well as three stolen mini buses, two fast cars and a number of guns.

Meticulous preparation

Police said the planned abductions were prepared with great care, with ‘an observation team and a large number of guns, police uniforms, mini buses, stop signs and bullet-proof vests’.

The investigation into EncroChat was set up in 2017 with French police when it came across an increasing number of EncroChat phones, and assisted by European crime fighting agencies Europol and Eurojust.

So far it has led to the arrest of more than 100 suspects in the Netherlands and the seizure of eight tonnes of cocaine and 1.2 tonnes of crystal meth. In total, 19 synthetic drugs labs have been dismantled and police have confiscated dozens of (automatic) fire weapons, expensive watches and 25 cars, and almost €20m in cash.

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