Belgian police seize 11.5 tons of cocaine; two Guyanese scrap metal shippers arrested

Last Updated on Thursday, 5 November 2020, 16:50 by Denis Chabrol

Belgian prosecutors have dealt a new blow to a recently disbanded drug gang led by a former Belgian police chief after announcing the largest-ever overseas drug bust “in the world”, the Brussels Times reported Thursday.

Head of Guyana’s Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit , James Singh said two shippers “heard we were looking for them and they came in” short;y after 3:30 Pm voluntarily. He said statements would be taken from them but already investigators in Guyana have concluded that the cocaine was transshipped to another vessel.  Mr. Singh said statements would be taken from the shippers as part of an overall probe. “We have the shippers in custody… They are saying they do not know,” he said.

Counternarcotics prosecutors said they had tracked the transatlantic journey of 11.5-tons of cocaine from Guyana, on the northeastern coast of South America, and seized it upon its arrival at the Port of Antwerp, the Brussels Times reported.

The catch is “the largest overseas drug bust ever, worldwide,” federal prosecutors told Belgian media, estimating the street value of the drug load at €900 million.

The massive load of cocaine left a port in Guyana on late October and prosecutors were able to track following the dismantlement of a drug trafficking gang led by a former Belgian counternarcotics chief which revealed the existence of tight-knit links between criminal gangs and counternarcotics and law enforcement officials.

Three police officers, a port manager and a lawyer were among some 20 other criminals arrested as part of the operation targeting the “well-structured” criminal organisation suspected of orchestrating large and “regular” drug shipments from South America to Belgium.

The record-breaking shipment was expected by law enforcement officials as it is suspected it left the port of Guyana after the drug gang’s arrest in Belgium, with drug gangs unable to intercept it once at sea, De Standaard reports.

It was disguised as scrap metal and placed inside a steel container which was in turn packed into a sea container and loaded into a transatlantic vessel.

The dismantlement of the drug gang in late September led to the arrest and indictment of 22 people, with three people still in the Netherlands awaiting extradition.

Following the record-breaking drug bust on Wednesday, three others were arrested, including one person who is facing extradition to Belgium from the Netherlands.