International operation against 'Ndrangheta leads to more arrests in Belgium
Belgian police arrested eight people on Monday morning as part of an investigation into international cocaine trafficking with possible links to the Italian 'Ndrangheta mafia. The arrests were part of international cooperation against drug crime.
Police carried out 11 searches on Monday during which eight people were arrested. The investigating judge will decide later on their detention. One person was also arrested in Germany. Belgium has asked for his extradition. A firearm, 5 kg of cocaine and 30,000 euros in cash were also seized during the searches.
Another international operation against 'Ndrangheta took place at the beginning of May. A European arrest warrant was issued for seven of the 13 people arrested in Belgium. In total, 132 suspects were arrested across Europe.
"We are trying to hit the drug mafia hard"
"The 'Ndrangheta is the most important mafia organisation in Europe, responsible for 80 per cent of cocaine imports from Mexico and Peru," said Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne. "This is the second operation in a few weeks. We are trying to hit the drug mafia hard."
The 'Ndrangheta is an organised crime operation from the Italian region of Calabria, considered the less dangerous sibling of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. It has since become Italy's most powerful mafia organisation, with tentacles stretching as far as Belgium.
Just hours after the arrests, an international summit on the fight against organised crime, particularly drug-related crime, took place in Antwerp. Ministers and senior officials from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain were joined by senior officials from Europol, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the European agency Eurojust and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson.
The six countries are committed to establishing a cooperation platform to make logistics hubs and processes more resistant to criminal infiltration, to apply the "follow the money" principle in the fight against criminal organisations, to use technological innovation in the fight against crime, and to strengthen international cooperation, including with third countries.
"International cooperation is increasing because it is necessary"
"International cooperation is increasing because it is necessary. Problems in Antwerp can also affect Germany and France, for example," said Van Quickenborne. "It is also necessary to cooperate with the United States. The DEA has 10,000 employees around the world and is close to the drug mafia. Exchanging information with them is very important."
He also advocates European extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties with countries such as the United Arab Emirates, where drug criminals hide.
Illustration pictures shows a police van before a session of Tongeren Council Chamber on the request for transfer of seven people arrested in Belgium during a large-scale police operation against the criminal organisation 'Ndrangheta, May 2023 © BELGA PHOTO JOHN THYS