The Netherlands has replaced Spain as a hotspot for criminal gangs smuggling cocaine into Europe, a report has revealed.
Highlighting the new phenomenon of collaboration between rival gangs, the crime agency Europol has said that cocaine trafficking is a major problem for the continent.
The Cocaine Insights report, which was compiled by Europol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, described the modern dynamics of the cocaine market.
“The fragmentation of the criminal landscape in the countries of origin has created new opportunities for European criminal networks to receive a direct supply of cocaine, eliminating the middleman,” he said.
“The epicenter of the cocaine market in Europe has shifted north. The increased use of container shipments relying on the high volume ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg consolidated the role of the Netherlands as a staging point and led to the North Sea of continental Europe overtaking the Iberian Peninsula as the main entry point for cocaine reaching Europe.
“The majority of the cocaine reaching Antwerp is probably destined for organizations operating from the Netherlands, from where the cocaine is then distributed to other European destinations.”
The report states that the cocaine market in Europe is now “more violent, diverse and competitive” than in previous years, and that it poses “a clear threat to European and global security”.
He revealed that the drug lords were starting to pool their resources.
“A new phenomenon involves increased cooperation between drug trafficking organizations (DTO) based in Europe,” he said.
“Recent reports suggest a possible collusion between high-profile European cocaine brokers and traffickers from different backgrounds. An example of attempted collusion between different groups was observed in 2017 in Dubai, involving individuals with ties to Irish, Italians, Bosnians and Dutch DTO.
“In some cases, DTOs have pooled their capital to jointly purchase larger quantities to maximize profits. Another example of such a collaboration could be detected when the French and American authorities stopped, in November 2017, a pattern of charter flights arriving in Biarritz, France, loaded with large quantities of cocaine from Colombia that were organized by a mix of Albanian, Turkish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, French and English brains. “
The report says violence has increased with public shootings, bombings, kidnappings and torture – some gangs even converting sea containers in the Netherlands into torture chambers, he said.
“The cocaine markets have attracted new DTOs, resulting in increased competition,” he said.
“In the spring of 2020, the French and Dutch authorities, with the support of Europol and other countries, carried out investigations into organized criminal groups using an encrypted communication platform.
“The data collected has provided law enforcement agencies with a unique overview of the activities of high-risk organized criminal groups, in particular in drug trafficking but also in the use of violence.”
The report says “hundreds of serious and violent crimes,” including murders and death threats, have been detected.
In 2019, alleged Dutch crime lord Ridouan Taghi was arrested in Dubai and faces multiple murder charges and leading a squad operating in Spain and the Netherlands.
Update: September 8, 2021, 3:35 p.m.