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Belgian customs seized file quantity of cocaine as EU faces rise in drug-related violence

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BRUSSELS — Customs seized 116 tons of cocaine within the port of Antwerp in 2023, setting a file for the second 12 months in a row, Belgian authorities mentioned on Wednesday.

Demand for cocaine is rising quickly throughout the EU, and governments blame the drug commerce for outbreaks of violence in main port cities like Antwerp, Rotterdam within the Netherlands, and Marseille in France.

The port of Antwerp has turn into the primary gateway for Latin American cocaine cartels into the continent.

One other 5 tons of cocaine had been seized final 12 months on the port of Zeebrugge, which is a part of the bigger Port of Antwerp-Bruges, mentioned Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem.

“Hundreds of staff, unfold all around the nation, gave their greatest in as soon as once more extraordinary circumstances final 12 months,” the minister mentioned.

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The announcement was made a day after 22 individuals, together with three cops, had been arrested in a serious anti-drug bust focusing on people suspected of smuggling cocaine by way of Antwerp.

The amount of cocaine seized in Europe’s second largest seaport rose from 110 tons in 2022, Belgian authorities mentioned, including that Colombia, Ecuador and Panama stay the highest international locations of origin.

File quantities of cocaine are being seized in Europe, with 303 tons stopped by EU member international locations in 2021, the newest 12 months for which figures can be found. In accordance with a report from the EU company monitoring medicine and dependancy, 75% of that amount was seized in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

In Belgium, federal authorities say drug trafficking is penetrating society quickly as international legal organizations have established deep roots within the nation, bringing alongside their violent and ruthless operations.

Prior to now 4 years, Antwerp has seen dozens of grenade assaults, fires and small bombs, many linked to gangs attempting to carve up the thriving cocaine commerce. In Belgium, then-Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne frolicked residing in hiding after proof emerged medicine gangs could be in search of to kidnap him, or worse.

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