HomeNewsBriefArrests, Seizures Show Colombians Processing Cocaine in Europe
BRIEF

Arrests, Seizures Show Colombians Processing Cocaine in Europe

COCAINE / 24 AUG 2020 BY DOUWE DEN HELD EN

Authorities in the Netherlands are discovering more cocaine processing facilities, but the dismantling of the largest one to date, staffed by Colombian workers, marks a new chapter for the country.

In mid-August, a raid in the northern town of Nijeveen found a large-scale facility that contained 100 kilograms of cocaine base and tens of thousands of liters of chemicals, according to a police press release. Seventeen people were arrested, including 14 Colombian nationals.

In nearby Apeldoorn, raids on several warehouses found about 120 tons of charcoal, among which coca paste is believed to have been hidden through a process known as 'chemical smuggling,' to later be processed into cocaine.

The practice of hiding coca paste in charcoal has been detected in Colombia in the past, suggesting that the drugs in the Nijeveen laboratory originated there.

The facility had a production capacity of 150 to 200 kilograms of cocaine per day with a street value of between 4.5 and 6 million euros, and it had dormitories and recreational spaces allowing production to take place around the clock.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cocaine

This finding comes amid a steady rise in seizures of cocaine and discoveries of labs across the country. The port of Rotterdam has seized several tons of cocaine in repeated seizures over the past few months. Meanwhile, cocaine processing facilities have been discovered after explosions or fires. One facility was even found by workers removing a fallen tree who smelled chemicals coming from a farming shed.

InSight Crime Analysis

The presence of over a dozen Colombian nationals in a small Dutch village implies that the country’s drug traffickers are not only shipping tons of cocaine to Europe but are also involved in other stages of the drug production chain there, including processing unrefined or altered cocaine.

As large ports such as Antwerp or Rotterdam have launched major new crackdowns on cocaine that have helped drive up seizures, drug traffickers have sought out new ways of smuggling drugs.

One particularly intricate form of smuggling known as chemical camouflage has brought Colombian experts onto European shores. In Colombia, cocaine hydrochloride is incorporated into carrier materials like textiles, shampoo or charcoal through a range of chemical processes. These range from the fairly simple, such as soaking clothes in a mixture of cocaine and water, to more complex where the cocaine is injected into products such as plastic and charcoal, according to Europol.

The carrier goods are shipped to front import companies in the Netherlands or other European countries, where the cocaine hydrochloride is extracted. Colombian journalist Nelson Matta told InSight Crime that this process is difficult, with Colombian traffickers brought into European drug laboratories to oversee the process and train their European counterparts.

Cocaine processing has also been detected in Spain. In February 2020, authorities arrested 39 people, including a number of Colombians, for allegedly running a network of five facilities in the eastern town of Alicante, El Pais reported.

In October 2019, a cocaine laboratory was dismantled near Toledo, Spain, with nine people arrested, including five Colombian nationals, according to a police statement. This facility, in which coca paste was extracted from charcoal blocks, supposedly had links to the 21st Front of the ex-FARC Mafia in Colombia. These groups are made up of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

SEE ALSO: Can Port of Antwerp Truly Stem Cocaine Entering Europe?

Spain and the Netherlands are two of the main entry points for Colombian cocaine into Europe, often through the port of Rotterdam or in the northern Spanish region of Galicia. Last November, a “narco-submarine” believed to have embarked from Colombia was captured in Galicia.

Authorities in Europe appear to be zeroing on these connections. In February, the Netherlands’ most notorious drug trafficker, Said Razzouki, was captured in Colombia. In April, an important network of Spanish drug traffickers was dismantled in Galicia after authorities began investigating the intended recipient of the sub.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 14 MAY 2015

Based on a new paper by Brookings conceptualizing the aftermath of a breakdown in the international narcotics control regime, InSight…

COLOMBIA / 26 APR 2017

A new report by a leading Colombian think tank maps the concentration of homicides in the country's largest cities, highlighting…

COLOMBIA / 28 MAR 2012

Colombia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they were willing to share strategies with Africa for fighting organized crime, as the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.