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Belgium one of new European hubs for cocaine trafficking, says Europol

Illustration picture shows police officers opening packages containing cocaine which were discovered at Antwerp Port. (BELGA PHOTO LIEVEN VAN ASSCHE)
08:56 09/09/2021

Belgium and the Netherlands have become the main hubs for cocaine trafficking to Europe, supplanting Spain as the main route of entry into European countries, according to a report released on Tuesday by the European police agency Europol.

Taking advantage of the increase in the supply of cocaine, especially from Colombia, criminal organisations use the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg to bring the drug into the Netherlands, from where it is transported throughout Europe, Europol said in its report, which was written in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). "The epicentre of the cocaine market in Europe has shifted northward." 

The increasing use of the transport of goods in containers, relying on the large capacities of the port terminals of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg "have consolidated the role of the Netherlands as a transit zone" of cocaine, according to the report.

The North Sea coasts have "supplanted the Iberian Peninsula as the main entry point for cocaine arriving in Europe," it said. In 2020, cocaine seizures in Antwerp totalled 65.6 tonnes, Europol added.

In February, Germany and Belgium seized a record 23 tons of drugs that were hidden in shipping containers.


Written by Nick Amies