Europe’s largest port is flooded with cocaine

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From South America to Europe’s largest port, via corrupt customs officers and young couriers, to buyers across the continent. More and more of the millions of containers arriving in Rotterdam contain smuggled cocaine.Published: December 17, 2022, 7:17 p.mRotterdam, like Europe’s entrance gate, is “flooded” by cocaine, according to the city’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb. The prospects of throttling the flows are judged to be small. “It’s really about trying to find a needle in a haystack,” says Romilda Schaaf, narcotics specialist at the port police in Rotterdam. Last year, the police managed to find at least a few needles. Almost 70 tons of cocaine were found in the port, which is Europe’s busiest. It was a big increase – 74 percent more cocaine than was discovered the year before. That it was made bigger Seizures in 2021 can be explained by the fact that there seem to be many potential customers in Europe, according to Ger Scheringa, who leads a group of armed customs officials at the port. , or on the underside of ships’ hulls. The organized smugglers first ensure that it is sent to the port and then that it can be picked up on the other side of customs. It is common for them to have informers and bribed contacts within the customs service. The drug is often moved between containers to avoid the checks that are made. Young men, who often come from Rotterdam’s suburbs, are tasked, according to prosecutors, to live near the port and wait for specific contraband containers. The police follow the movement of tens of thousands of containers at the port’s terminals in real time on digital maps. If any container raises suspicions, it can be X-rayed, unpacked or examined with drug dogs. Some ships are examined by divers when they arrive. Rotterdam was, along with Belgium’s Antwerp, the main ports used by a Dubai-based “supercartel” that the European police agency Europol said last week had blown up. That cartel is said to have smuggled in a third of all the cocaine that came to Europe. So far this year, more than 70 people have been arrested in the port of Rotterdam for crimes related to drug smuggling. There are both organized criminals and people who work in the port. On December 6, a 43-year-old woman who works in customs was arrested, suspected of corruption and involvement in smuggling. The drug smugglers are offering up to the equivalent of one million kroner to port workers and customs officers who can help to pilot the drug through the port, according to Ger Scheringa. Rotterdam’s mayor has demanded that every single container that reaches the port be thoroughly examined. Customs officer Scheringa describes it as the biggest challenge: weighing the logistics against the necessity to control just about everything. Both politicians and those operating in the port regret that violence has followed in the wake of drug smuggling. A lawyer who was involved in a major smuggling trial and a crime journalist have been murdered in recent years.”The goal is really to reassure people that they can live safe lives and that no politician, lawyer or crime reporter should need protection just because this crap comes into our country,” says Romilda Schaaf at the port police.

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