Largest criminal trial ever in Belgium begins
The largest criminal trial in Belgian history began on Monday in Brussels, as 129 defendants are tried for importing cocaine from South America and cannabis from Morocco.
The defendants include 124 individuals, four companies and one person whom the court has yet to identify. They belong to several gangs who worked together and include Belgians, Albanians, Colombians, Algerians and French, among others. One of the accused is a police officer from Brussels who is said to have provided information from police databases, violating his professional secrecy. Their actions came to light following the discovery of encrypted messages sent via Encrochat and Sky ECC.
The drugs, originating in South America and Morocco, were imported to Belgium, repackaged and subsequently distributed to the rest of Europe.
During their investigation in October 2021, investigators found 114 locations in Belgium that housed nine drug labs in warehouses, barrels full of chemicals or drug waste, enormous quantities of white powder, notes on how the labs should be run, weapons, cash, false documents and other evidence.
The drugs had been liquefied and injected into ordinary objects, such as clothing. In some laboratories, these drugs had to be extracted with chemical products, and then the cocaine was pressed again into blocks. In different laboratories, pure cocaine was cut or mixed with other products to maximise profit.
The trial is expected to last five months.
© BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND