On 1 October the Federal Police reported that it had been successful in dismantling a drugs cartel led by the former officer in the Gendarmerie Willy Van Mechelen. Among those detained were a several police officers, a leading figure in the Port of Antwerp company, a lawyer and a member of the notorious criminal family, the Aquinos.
The gang is suspected of having very regularly smuggled large quantities of cocaine into Belgium from South America. Currently 22 people are being held. Three suspects are awaiting transfer to Belgium by the Judicial Authorities in The Netherlands. The investigation into the gang’s activities discovered that a shipment of cocaine that could be linked to the gang was already on its ways from Guyana.
The cocaine was hidden in a steel container that in turn had been put into a sea container loaded with scrap metal. When it was open 11.5 tonnes of cocaine were discovered. This is the largest quantity of cocaine ever seized outside the Americas. The ship carrying the container arrived at Zeebrugge docks in West Flanders last week. It was transferred onto a smaller boat for the rest of its journey to Antwerp. Its destination was a company just over the Dutch border.
So far, the operation has resulted in a total of 15 tonnes of cocaine being seized. The drugs have an estimated wholesale value of 450 million euro. Their street value could easily be double this.
After the drugs were seized 5 properties were searched, three of which in Belgium (in Antwerp and Temse, East Flanders) and two in The Netherlands. Two people were detained for questioning by Belgian police. One person was detained by police in The Netherlands.