So much cocaine is being seized by customs in Belgium that the country's incinerators are no longer able to keep up

So much cocaine is being seized by customs in Belgium that the country's incinerators are no longer able to keep up
A rear view of a cargo ship stacked with containers alongside a wharf at Port of Antwerp-Bruges in Antwerp, Belgium, Oct. 27, 2022
A cargo ship berths at a container dock of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges in Antwerp, Belgium, October 27, 2022Zheng Huansong/Xinhua via Getty Images
  • Belgium has seized so much cocaine at its ports that it can't incinerate it fast enough, a minister said.

  • Antwerp's port is expected to have seized 110 tons of cocaine by the end of the year.

  • Billions of dollars of cocaine in Belgium warehouses creates an inviting target for criminals.

Belgian customs officers have seized so much cocaine that it is causing a backlog for the country's incinerators, according to local reports, with police now concerned that the stockpile could become a target for criminals.

The port of Antwerp is on track to seize 110 tons of the drug this year, Flemish broadcaster VRT reported. This would have a street value of at least $5.1 billion, according to The Brussels Times, making its destruction a matter of urgency.

The locations of country's specially licensed incinerators are kept under careful wraps. Even so, according to the Brussels Times, Antwerp prosecutor Franky De Keyser has raised alarm with Belgium's Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, given that "the mountain of cocaine" is now so big that criminal gangs might be tempted to try to raid the country's customs warehouses.

Van Quickenborne has said the seized drugs are "closely monitored," reported VRT, but he added that it's difficult to burn them in bulk "as this would cause issues with the filters at the incineration plant."

Additional incineration capacity has been found, but it's considered insufficient. "We have already found some new capacity where several tonnes of cocaine have already been destroyed," Van Quickenborne said, per VRT.

The port of Antwerp — Europe's second-biggest port — in recent years has became the continent's largest entry point for cocaine, Reuters reported back in 2018. In a 2021 report, the UN said Antwerp was one of the ports forming the "epicenter" of Europe's cocaine market.

There are signs that criminals are becoming more brazen. In September, three Dutch men connected to the drugs trade were arrested after a car containing firearms and handcuffs were found outside Van Quickenborne's home, VRT reported at the time.

The justice minister later characterized the setup as an attempt to kidnap him, according to The Guardian.

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