Belgian authorities have reported another record cocaine haul after customs officials at the port of Antwerp seized almost 10 tonnes of the drug, with an estimated street value of 1.4 billion Euros ($2.2 billion).
- Police act after breaking an encrypted communications network used by criminals
- Employees of the Belgian finance ministry and port were among those arrested
- More than 25 tonnes of cocaine have been seized in Belgium in the past six weeks
The illegal shipment was discovered after the Easter long weekend and was hidden in a cargo of blue leather.
It brought the total amount of cocaine confiscated in Belgium over the past six weeks to more than 25 tonnes.
Police capitalised on the breaking of an encrypted communications network popular with criminals, prosecutors said.
Last month, Belgian police arrested 48 people during an operation involving more than 1,500 officers and targeting organised drug crime.
Four more arrests were announced on Tuesday, including suspects who worked at the finance ministry, the Antwerp city services and the port.
The prosecutor’s office said they were charged with gang membership, bribery and abuse of trust.
Belgian prosecutors said investigators cracked the encrypted messaging service Sky ECC and intercepted a billion messages during a two-year investigation.
“During a judicial investigation into a potential service criminal organisation suspected of knowingly providing encrypted telephones to the criminal environment, police specialists managed to crack the encrypted messages from Sky ECC,” Belgian Police said in a statement.
“This data provides elements in current files, but also opened up new criminal offenses.
With thousands of shipping containers reaching Antwerp every day, the Belgian port city is one of Europe’s main entry ports for cocaine.
Trafficking in the city has led to a recent surge of violence, including gun battles and grenade attacks.