In addition to the 35.83 tonnes of cocaine seized at the port of Antwerp, a further 28 tonnes of the drug that was bound for Antwerp was seized at various ports of origin in Central and South America. The Federal Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem told VRT News that "Today's figures make it clear that need to continue to invest in that battle against drug trafficking".
During the past six months, customs officers at the port of Antwerp carried out checks on more than 40,000 containers. These checks were not only related to the fight against drug trafficking but were also carried out to ensure the enforcement of the trade sanctions against Russia.
Mr Van Peteghem told VRT News that he intends to continue to invest in Belgium’s Customs and Excise Service. 108 additional customs officers will be recruited, and investments will be made in additional fixed scanners at our ports and portable scanners that can be used to carry out quick checks. A clear medium and long term strategy is needed as is more copperation between the regional, federal and European authorities and with nations outside the European Union.
Concern about recent attacks in Antwerp
Mr Van Peterghem expressed his concern about the recent spate of explosions and shootings in Antwerp.
"The police services can always on the assistance of Federal Government for help dealing with this."
The Federal Finance Minister denies claims made by the Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (Flemish nationalist) that the Federal Government doesn’t view the fight against drugs as a priority.
"Just look at the efforts being made by (Interior) Minister Verlinden and (Justice) Minister Van Quickenborne". Mr Van Peteghem was referring to the additional 350 million euro that will be invested in the police service next year and the recruitment of 400 addition staff for the Federal Judicial Police.
"I think we are making it clear that this is a priority. But of course, everyone has to do their bit, starting at a local level. The (language) community authorities have a role to play as does the Federal Government”, Mr Van Peteghem told VRT News.