Crime & Justice

Dutch officials face growing illicit drug smuggling at Rotterdam port

By Imane Rachidi

The Hague, Sep 19 (EFE).- Young criminals recruited by mafia groups to unload drugs smuggled in containers from South America to the Port of Rotterdam, the largest in Europe, have become an “unmanageable” problem for Dutch authorities.

This year alone 325 suspects have been arrested in connection to drug trafficking at the port. Over a third of those, some 110 arrests, were in the last two weeks alone, according to Dutch prosecutors. There were 281 arrests in the whole of 2020.

In some cases, these groups manage to enter the port area and unload the illicit cargo. In others, authorities catch the gangs on port property without authorization.

It can be dangerous for the young criminals, known as collectors, as well. Recently, a group of nine men called the emergency services when they became trapped in a container and oxygen levels were running low.

The container was transporting cargo that absorbed oxygen and the door to the unit was blocked by another shipment.

All of the men were detained following a medical checkup. One of the suspects, an 18-year-old, had been arrested on port property six times in recent weeks.

Authorities often find it hard to prove that those arrested for trespassing on port property are involved in drug trafficking, due to a lack of incriminating evidence. Of the 110 suspects detained in September, just 16 went to court.

Prosecutors can only issue a fine for unauthorized access to the port area.

The gangs generally offload drugs at night but arrive at the port earlier, sometimes hidden in shipping containers. They then smuggle the drugs out of the port to deliver it to the client.

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