Last year, 46,789 kilos of cocaine was intercepted in the port of Rotterdam: the second largest amount ever. This is evident from the annual figures of the Hit and Run Cargo team (HARC team), a partnership of the police, customs, FIOD and the Public Prosecution Service. With the more than four tons of cocaine seized in the port of Vlissingen, the total cocaine seized by the HARC team amounts to 52,480 kilos: good for a street value of 3.5 billion euros.
As a distribution country, the Netherlands plays a central role in the European cocaine trade. Drug criminals use the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp to import cocaine on a large scale and then distribute it further via the Netherlands.
Simultaneously with the publication of the Dutch ‘cocaine figures’, it was announced in Antwerp that a record quantity of 110,000 kilos of cocaine was seized there last year. As a result, in 2022 there will be a joint Dutch/Belgian catch of more than 162,000 kilos, almost a fivefold increase of the amount in 2015.
The Rotterdam chief public prosecutor Hugo Hillenaar states that work is still being done on “the exact interpretation” of the decrease in the seized cocaine. In a press conference at the port area, he and Customs pointed out, among other things, that the approach to cocaine smugglers has been intensified. For example, more criminal investigations have been started (71 versus 38 in 2021) and half more suspects have been arrested (95) who play an essential role in drug organizations.
More relatively small batches of cocaine (less than 100 kilos) were also intercepted than before. According to customs director Jan Kamp, this indicates that drug criminals “may be spreading risk or that the cocaine has landed elsewhere in Europe”.
Kamp states that cooperation with Latin American countries, for example by stationing Dutch liaisons there, is also bearing fruit. Last year, 70,000 kilos of cocaine destined for the Netherlands was intercepted in Latin America. A year earlier that was still 40,000 kilos.
Read also: The fight against cocaine on the Rotterdam quay
Never such pure coke
Despite the large amount of cocaine intercepted, the street price has been stable for years and, according to the Trimbos Institute, the purity of cocaine in the Netherlands has never been so high. According to Chief Public Prosecutor Hillenaar, however, this does not mean that the seizures have only a limited effect on the drug market. Referring to a study by think tank Denkwerk last year, he states that at least half of the cocaine transported to the Netherlands is seized. “The mutual competition model of drug organizations means that not one of them can raise the price. From that perspective, the street price says nothing about the success of seizures.”