Belgium says it needs more incinerators to destroy confiscated cocaine

A record amount of cocaine seized by law enforcement in Belgium has put the government on the market for some additional incinerators.

Agence France-Presse reports that authorities there have “seized so much cocaine from smugglers operating through the port of Antwerp that more incinerator space is needed to destroy it”.

“There is a problem with the capacity of the incinerator,” Belgian Customs Service spokesman Francis Adyns told Agence France-Press, saying the government has “a structural solution on the way”.

According to Agence France-Presse, “Belgian authorities are on track to seize more than 100 tons in 2022, a new record after 89.5 tons were confiscated last year.”

Adyns told Euronews this week that “the main concern of the customs administration is to destroy all cocaine as quickly as possible”.

“If we have a huge drug trove of 5 to 8 tons, because of the capacity of the incinerators and the environmental restrictions on destroying large quantities of drugs, it can’t all be destroyed immediately,” Adyns told the outlet. “But in the meantime, arrangements have been made with the incinerators, giving us more capacity to incinerate them.”

According to Euronews, “Details of the incineration plans and timing of the incineration are being kept secret amid fears that criminal organizations may now be hitting these sites to try to recover some of the narcotics confiscated.”

“We have a lot of money (by street value) to deal with,” Adyns said. “The street price for a gram of cocaine is about 50 euros. So you can imagine if we’ve confiscated a few tons what that amounts to. Because of these organizations that are not afraid of violence, as we have seen in the Netherlands, and the large sum of money at stake, one can imagine that there is a huge problem when it comes to safety (the operation and) our agents.”

Antwerp prosecutor Franky De Keyser described the confiscated contraband as a “cocaine mountain” in October, according to Euronews.

The Brussels Times reports that “so much cocaine is seized in the port of Antwerp that the confiscated drugs have to be stored at customs”.

“This could give drug gangs ideas, for example to raid bonded warehouses… Authorized incinerators do not allow the seized cocaine to be further processed,” according to the Brussels Times. “Antwerp Public Prosecutor Franky De Keyser raised the alarm with Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne a few weeks ago. Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever knocked on Van Quickenborne’s door for the same reason. The Van Quickenborne and De Wever offices said they were working together to find a solution. The public waste authority of Flanders, OVAM, said on Saturday that the capacity of the incinerators is sufficient and that the problems are of a logistical nature.”

Agence France-Press reports that the country’s “recent problem stems from the astronomical quantities of cocaine from Latin America intercepted in Antwerp, Europe’s main port of entry for the illicit trade,” noting that Belgian authorities “are concerned that depots used to store the drugs could become targets for robberies by powerful gangs trying to recover their lucrative shipments.”

“According to local media reports, suspected gang members were seen using drones to scout customs depots where several million euros worth of confiscated cocaine were being held,” Agence France-Press reported this week. “Authorities are moving quickly to destroy the seizures, but, Adyns said, in order to burn cocaine, ‘environmental standards have to be met.'”

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