The contract killing of an Anglo-Albanian mobster sheds new light on Europe’s drug trafficking network
Like a plot in the BBC crime drama Line of Duty, organized crime gangs are uprooting the weak links in its squad, which was recently bolstered by 341 new customs officers following increased post-Brexit checks, to help their security operations. smuggling.
“They deliberately recruit people and place them in the organization. We hired for Brexit. Once they are inside they try to get the information,” he said. “With too much recruiting, it’s too easy for the Mafia to get in.”
Unlike Mr Vanderwaeren, Belgium’s 3,300 customs officers are camera-shy, knowing that just one media appearance could make them a prime target for drug gangs.
“They go to the weak, the poorest, those with private problems, those who spend too much money,” Mr Vanderwaeren said, warning that it can start with a simple tap on the shoulder at a station. -service or the offer of a drink at a local bar.
He added: “Sometimes while you’re filling up the gas they ask you, ‘Do you want to make some extra money?’ If people have money problems, they can say “yes” and it starts. Or it’s a family member related to someone related to the mafia.
Mr De Weber said he has read reports that “community stalwarts”, who sponsor youth sports teams or local charities, are behind such approaches.
Corrupt customs officers have allegedly received up to €80,000 for reports that shipping containers passing through Antwerp were identified as “high risk” and potential carriers of cocaine.
Mr Vanderwaeren even said it allowed criminals to make last-minute trades or offloads to ensure their illicit proceeds were not seized by authorities.
A bailiff was arrested last month accused of accessing national financial records to help gangs identify troubled customs, police and other officials.
In March last year, a major police operation, Sky EEC, also arrested police officers, lawyers and officials suspected of working for organized crime gangs.
Some 30,000 shipping containers arriving in Antwerp are scanned each year by its army of officials. Only high-risk shipments – representing 1% of total arrivals at the port – are open.
Among the mundane openings – carried out to verify whether the stuffed toys were made in Vietnam, as shown on customs declarations, and not in China – are shipments of drugs stowed creatively in containers from America from South.
Last year’s main seizure, a single shipment of more than four tonnes of cocaine, was concealed in a container full of bananas from Antwerp, recovered by specialist X-ray scanners deployed at the port.