Rise of drug labs in Brussels is 'frightening', says federal magistrate
Authorities have recorded a "frightening" presence and increase of drug laboratories in Brussels, federal magistrate Julien Moinil said on Monday at the Encrochat/Sky ECC drug trial. These laboratories, often set up in residential areas and pose a threat to the surrounding area, the environment and public health, he said.
A total of 124 people, four companies and one unknown person are currently on trial for smuggling and trafficking cocaine and cannabis. The case came to light after the encrypted networks Encrochat and SKY ECC were decrypted by the Belgian federal police. Investigators uncovered nine drug laboratories.
These labs were located not only in industrial zones, but also in residential areas of the capital, in the districts of Ixelles, Etterbeek, Uccle and Forest. Before the trial started, there was an explosion at one of these laboratories in Ixelles.
"Criminal organisations are no longer afraid to set up drug laboratories in neighbourhoods and streets where people take their children to school every day," said Moinil.
"They also do not hesitate to order huge quantities of chemical products and leave them in nature after use, with all the environmental consequences this entails. In this dossier, we have discovered several such clandestine dumps, which incidentally helped us to identify some of the people involved."
"They also do not hesitate to order huge quantities of chemical products and leave them in nature after use"
The drug labs are a danger not only to the environment but also to public health, according to Moinil: "The people who work there, in extremely dangerous conditions, do so without any social protection, without health insurance or anything else. Moreover, the cocaine produced there causes tragedies among users. Some may be recreational users, but others are severely addicted."
© PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP