Belgian justice announced Monday the dismantling of a criminal organization suspected of having imported into Belgium more than 15 tons of cocaine via the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, with ramifications in Spain and Colombia.

A total of 27 people were arrested in Belgium after 23 searches carried out mainly in the Li├Ęge region.

An operation which mobilized 300 police officers, said the federal prosecutor in a press release.

There was another arrest in Spain, at the request of the Belgian investigating judge in charge of the investigation, and this suspect is now targeted by a European arrest warrant.

Nearly 600 kg of cocaine seized

This organization located in the French-speaking east of Belgium is also active in the Dutch-speaking part as well as in Spain and the Netherlands, according to the prosecution.

In Belgium, a cocaine processing laboratory was "dismantled", another storage area searched, and "chemical waste depots" were discovered.

Almost 600 kg of cocaine were seized.

"The presence of Colombian suspects working in the various settlements has been confirmed", underlines the prosecution, without saying whether they are among the 27 arrested, whose nationality has not been specified.

Guns, cars, encrypted cell phones, luxury watches, horses: a wide range of goods were seized, as well as "more than 1.6 tons of drugs in bulk with an estimated market value of 80 million euros" .

Belgium and the Netherlands, traffic hubs

The organization, suspected of being also active in the production and resale of cannabis, used in particular the encrypted communications network Sky ECC, targeted by a large operation by the Belgian police in April.

The investigation into cocaine trafficking opened three years ago under the direction of a judge from Verviers was partly accelerated by the use of data collected in the Sky ECC case.

The fruit of European cooperation, this case also led to indictments in France last spring.

Belgium and the Netherlands have become the main hubs for cocaine trafficking to Europe, supplanting Spain, the former first route of entry, Europol noted in a report published in September.

In 2020, cocaine seizures in Antwerp totaled 65.6 tonnes, a new record.

Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador rank in the top three places for sending countries.

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  • Drug traffic

  • Investigation

  • Cocaine

  • Belgium

  • World

Keywords: suspects, belgium, spain, cocaine, cocaine trafficking, organization, justice, ports, operation, ramifications, dismantling, antwerp, rotterdam, searches, prosecutor