This week in Antwerp docks customs found a record catch of 8000 kilos of cocaine heading towards Holland. Five men have been arrested in connection with this on Tuesday by the authorities. The wholesale value of the cocaine is around 280 million Euro.
The drugs arrived in the docks of Antwerp on Monday on board a cargo ship from Ecuador. The drugs were hidden in a load of bananas. When the container was checked, they discovered square packets of cocaine under the bananas. Belgian customs discovered 6985 packets with a total weight of 8032 kilos.
The container with fruit, which was intended for a company in Zoetermeer, Holland, was delivered at the end of the afternoon at the industrial estate, Spaanse Polder in Rotterdam. The transport was followed by the police.
The authorities arrested another four men from Rotterdam, besides the 46 year old Belgian driver, when the container was unloaded. These suspects are being brought before the magistrate in Rotterdam today.
The interception of 8 tonnes of cocaine is the second biggest haul ever made in Europe, as far as is known. It is certainly an absolute record as far as Holland and Belgium are concerned. The street value of such a huge amount of cocaine is over half a billion Euro. There have been big catches of cocaine in Holland before: 4000 kilos in Vlissingen in 2000 and 4600 kilos in Rotterdam in 2005.
The authorities are conducting further research into the final destination, the finance and the customers of the drugs transport. It's not the first time and definitely not the last time that the authorities in Holland and Belgium will work closely against international drug trade.
The bananas which were used as a cover for the cocaine, around 20,000 kilos, were also seized and have been donated to Rotterdam's Blijdorp Zoo.
An inquiry to Johan Claes of the Belgian New Fruit Wharf (BNFW) shows that the bananas didn't come into the Antwerp docks through the Fruit Wharf, but through a regular container terminal. Claes points out that the BNFW checks are very strict, which may have been why this option was chosen. "But I'm no cocaine specialist. We are paid to unload as many boxes of pineapples and bananas as possible!"