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Over a tonne of cocaine found hidden in cement bags in Liège
The Liège prosecutor's office revealed on Monday that 1.2 tonnes of cocaine had been accidentally discovered on 14 December in cement bags on an unloading dock on the banks of the river Meuse, near Liège. Federal police are conducting an investigation to try to trace the supply chain.
The cargo is believed to be from Brazil. After transiting through Antwerp, it was discovered by chance at a river terminal by employees of a company active on the site. This company is not suspected of having participated in the trafficking.
Catherine Collignon, Liège’s first deputy prosecutor, explained that "workers responsible for transporting big bags of cement were surprised by the heaviness of some bags and, after investigating, discovered a package that looked like a packet of cocaine."
Whether the consignment was destined for Liège or was to be distributed elsewhere, the authorities are not sure. The hypothesis of a container switching error at the port of Antwerp has not been excluded. According to Collignon, "no leads are excluded, but one wonders if this exceptional cargo was destined for the borough of Liège. Finding such quantities of drugs is worrying. There is almost €100 million euros worth of cocaine."
The logo on the cocaine packages, referring to the "producer" of the drug, is not unknown to international drug services. According to information gathered by RTBF, several seizures of drugs with identical logos were made in different Brazilian ports in 2020, including Santos near Sao Paulo, which has become a trafficking hub in South America.
This is not the first time drugs have been found in an inland port in Belgium. Several shipments of cocaine were intercepted at the port of Ghent in 2020 but, compared to the discovery made in the Liège region, the quantities found there were much less.
Last year, 107kg were seized at the port of Ghent, 482kg at Zaventem airport and 2kg at Bierset airport, according to figures reported until the end of November by SPF Finance, the government department in charge of customs administration. In the whole of 2020, more than 60 tonnes of cocaine were seized in Belgium, mainly at the port of Antwerp. The precise figures are yet to be released but it could be another record year, despite the containment restrictions brought in due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about the most recent discovery, a spokesperson for the federal police referred to ‘impressive quantities seized or found’.
“As the discovery made in the Liège region shows, the problem is not only Antwerp,” the spokesperson said. “Drugs enter via the port of Antwerp but Belgium is a river, road and rail hub that also benefits criminal organisations that extend their activities over several boroughs, in an increasingly professional way."
“We are worried because despite the work carried out with national partners such as customs or with international agencies, and despite the large mobilisation of forces, drugs are pouring in more and more,” the spokesperson concluded. “To cope, a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach is needed to target this type of crime more efficiently."
Note: For security reasons, this article does not mention certain details of the circumstances surrounding the discovery in Liège.