Belgium introduces forensic drug expertise centre, including drug database

Federal Justice minister Paul van Tigchelt introduced the new forensic drug expertise centre of the National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology (NICC) on Tuesday. The centre will support the police, customs and judges in the fight against drug trafficking.

"We see more and more potent and dangerous synthetic drugs coming onto the market," says Van Tigchelt. "Just look at flakka, the zombie drug, in West Flanders. We want to bring those responsible to justice and punish them, and this will help us to do that."

Drug database

The NICC will examine and profile drugs found and develop uniform and safe sampling procedures for the police and customs. It will also keep track of all samples and profiles in a special database.

The database will enable investigators to make more connections, for example between seized drugs and the illegal laboratories they came from, or between precursors or adulterants - substances that can often be bought legally - and the drugs in which they are found.

"We want to bring those responsible to justice and punish them, and this will help us to do that"

It will also be possible to establish links between shipments intercepted at ports and where the drugs end up on the streets. For the police and the judiciary, this could become an important weapon in detecting and combating criminal drug networks and mapping their criminal assets.

In consultation with the National Drugs Commission, Van Tigchelt is providing an annual operating budget of half a million euros for the new centre. However, this budget still has to be approved by the upcoming Council of Ministers.

The money will allow the NICC's drug laboratory to hire four new employees, says Nathalie Meert, a forensic drug expert at the NICC. "We are looking for people with a scientific background, such as chemists or biomedical scientists," she said. The NICC's drugs team currently consists of 10 people.


Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt pictured during the opening of the NICC's forensic drug expertise centre © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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