drugs flood | 

Dutch gang accused of smuggling 6,800 kilos of cocaine into Europe face 14 years sentences

Kinahan Cartel among the gangs targeting a share of Europe's €130 BILLION cocaine trade

1,400 kilos of cocaine found in a warehouse in Antwerp, April 2020. Photo: Parket Antwerpen

Eamon Dillon

Prosecutors are seeking 14-year prison sentences for men involved in a massive cocaine smuggling operation targeting European ports.

It is the latest case highlighting the flood of cocaine and cash engulfing The Netherlands and Belgium as crime gangs including the Kinahan Cartel fight for a share of the lucrative drugs market.

During 2021, a total of €5 billion of cocaine was seized in the Dutch port of Rotterdam while another €13 billion was seized in the neighbouring Belgian port of Antwerp.

This week’s case in The Netherlands has revealed how a criminal outfit operating from Amsterdam organised shipments totalling 6,800 kilos over a year and a half.

The street value of the haul in Ireland at €76,000 a kilo would be €512,000,000.

“But in reality, of course, these numbers are many times higher. Today we are only talking about the tip of the iceberg," said the public prosecutor in court.

Police had the gang under surveillance from July 2019 after gaining access to millions of users’ messages from the Sky EEC encrypted network.

Prosecutors at the hearing, which is expected to last 10 days, are seeking a 14 prison sentence for the ring-leader of the ten men on trial.

The police operation known as Argus in April 2020 resulted in a shipment of 4,200 kilos was seized in a container in Antwerp, Belgium after being collector by ‘pickers’ who gained access to the port.

There were 30 arrests in The Netherlands and 48 in Belgium with a total of 17,000 kilos of cocaine seized by the authorities.

Operation Argus was the follow-up to the Lemont investigation, which Dutch authorities used to take down the EncroChat service.

Cocaine seized in Rotterdam. Photo: Public Prosecution Department

Acting on the information police discovered a torture chamber allegedly prepared for up to seven murders and bribes paid to officials.

The scale of the problem is obvious in Antwerp where the local mayor Bart De Wever is under protection amid fears of assassination plot against him by drug cartels.

Just last weekend an Albanian man using a fake British passport was shot six times near his apartment by two hit men.

Bledar Muca

Gangster Bledar Muca (39) was previously caught on CCTV in 2016 using a handgun to shoot at police.

He had been in Antwerp for the past two years operating as a key member of an Albanian drugs gang in the port city.

But the real problem is not gangsters shooting each other but the drugs money being used to corrupt officials.

Last year a network of corrupt officials was uncovered many of them with access to government databases of personal records of all Belgian citizens.

It is feared the information is being used to target port workers and customs officials to corrupt and ensure the smooth transit of drugs through the ports.

Harbour workers in Antwerp are being advised not to wear any work clothes that identify them as employees for fear of being approached by criminals.

Recent investigations in Belgium have uncovered several people who have been corrupted including a police inspector, a hospital administrator with access to personal information and a tax official.

Irish gangster Christy Kinahan senior has record of similar behaviour in Belgium.

He had been given a four-year prison sentence by a court in Antwerp after being found guilty on 10 counts of money laundering in September 2009.

The probe into Kinahan’s operation revealed a web of corruption involving criminals, a professional soccer club and local police officers.

After being released from custody in Spain in 2011 following his arrest during Operation Shovel he was sent back to Belgium in handcuffs to serve his sentence there.

He was freed and back in Spain in April 2013 after being released 18-months early from prison in Belgium.

Nordin El Hajjioui. Interpol

One of the suspected big players in Antwerp's drug under is Nordin El Hajjioui, who was born in the city and but now lives in Dubai where Daniel Kinahan also resides.

Known as 'Dikke Nordin' or 'Fat Nordin', he is the subject of an Interpol red notice for weapons and drugs offences and being part of criminal organisation.

So far the authorities in the United Arab Emirates have refused to extradite to Belgium despite multiple requests.

He had been arrested in Belgium in June 2020 but fled the country after getting bail.

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