Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Belgian customs seize record amount of cocaine as EU faces drug violence rise

Customs seized another record amount of cocaine in the port of Antwerp in 2023 (AP)
Customs seized another record amount of cocaine in the port of Antwerp in 2023 (AP)

Customs officers seized 116 tonnes of cocaine in the port of Antwerp in 2023, setting a record for the second year in a row, Belgian authorities said.

Demand for cocaine is growing rapidly across the EU, and governments blame the drug trade for outbreaks of violence in major port cities like Antwerp, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Marseille in France.

The port of Antwerp has become the main gateway for Latin American cocaine cartels into the continent.

Finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem said another five tonnes of cocaine were seized last year at the port of Zeebrugge, which is part of the larger Port of Antwerp-Bruges.

He said: “Thousands of employees, spread all over the country, gave their best in once again extraordinary circumstances last year.”

The announcement was made a day after 22 people, including three police officers, were arrested in a major anti-drug operation targeting individuals suspected of smuggling cocaine through Antwerp.

Drugs seized
Some 116 tonnes of the drug was intercepted (Belgian finance ministry via AP)

The quantity of cocaine seized in Europe’s second largest seaport rose from 110 tons in 2022, Belgian authorities said, adding that Colombia, Ecuador and Panama remain the top origin countries.

Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe, with 303 tonnes stopped by EU member countries in 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available.

According a report from the EU agency monitoring drugs and addiction, 75% of that quantity was seized in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

In Belgium, federal authorities say drug trafficking is penetrating society rapidly as foreign criminal organisations have built deep roots in the country, bringing along their violent and ruthless operations.

In the past four years, Antwerp has seen dozens of grenade attacks, fires and small bombs, many linked to gangs trying to carve up the thriving cocaine trade.

In Belgium, then-justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne spent time living in hiding after evidence emerged drugs gangs might be seeking to kidnap him, or worse.