30 suspects arrested in Belgian-Spanish drug raid

Antwerp local police carried out more than 30 house searches on Wednesday morning as part of a major investigation into two suspected drug gangs, the Antwerp public prosecutor's office reports. 30 suspects were arrested in Belgium and seven house searches were carried out in Spain.

The investigation was launched a year ago after police learned that a restaurant in the Antwerp district of Deurne was being used as a front for drug-related crime, the public prosecutor's office said.

"Customers went to the restaurant to buy cocaine, and the place was frequented by Albanian men who were active in the criminal world and known for, among other things, burglary, arms smuggling, counterfeiting and the buying and selling of drugs," the prosecutor's office said.

"Further investigations also revealed that the Albanian suspects had close contacts with a Spanish suspect living in Sint-Gillis-Waas. The man had his own network of accomplices, including several family members, and allegedly used corrupt dock workers to import and extract drugs through the port of Antwerp," the prosecutor's office said.

On Wednesday, with the support of numerous other police forces, more than 30 house searches were carried out in Belgium, including in Sint-Gillis-Waas, Bruges, Elsene, Mechelen and the Antwerp districts of Berchem and Deurne. 30 suspects were arrested and drugs, weapons, luxury goods, cars and large amounts of cash were seized.

Through the Spanish suspect, the investigation led to Spain, where family members were allegedly involved in criminal and money-laundering activities. The Policía Nacional and the Guardia Civil carried out seven searches in Spain.


#FlandersNewsService | Belgian customs officer searching a container for drugs at the port of Antwerp © PHOTO François WALSCHAERTS / AFP

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