The year 2022 has been filled with large-scale investigations and trials in the field of justice. It should be recalled that the perpetrators and accomplices of the Brussels attacks are finally on trial before the Brussels High Court. The year was also marked by a deadly attack on a police officer in Schaerbeek. In 2022, the Minister of Justice was a target of drug trafficking, which made it even more public.
On September 24, 2022, increased surveillance was put in place at the home of Vincent van Quickenborn due to a credible kidnapping threat. Weapons were found in a car near his home. The Minister of Justice said at the time, in a secret place, "I am taking a step back; I have been working on these cases for two years, but frankly, it is difficult for my family, who did not choose this situation."
He also assured me that this in no way affected his motivation to continue his fight against drugs. Following this episode, four Dutch citizens were arrested and extradited to Belgium. The investigation into the attempted kidnapping is under the responsibility of the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office.
Why is the Minister of Justice the target?
It could be said that Vincent van Quickenborn is obstructing drug traffickers. The SKY ECC network was dismantled more than a year ago. This encrypted communication network was used by smugglers. The police had access to millions of messages, which led to numerous searches and the arrest of more than 1,200 people. This will destabilize the activities of criminal groups. Agreements have recently been concluded with Dubai to allow the extradition of criminals to Belgium.
It is known that many drug smugglers seek refuge in the Gulf countries. Vincent Van Quickenborne now calls this situation "narcoterrorism": "The criminal world is trying to destabilize society and take it over."
In Belgium, drug traffickers are not only targeting politicians
Numerous grenades have exploded in the Antwerp region this year. Most often, they are at the home or business of a member of a criminal gang. Shots have also been fired at building facades and vehicles. The situation is being closely monitored by the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office. Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw compares the impact of terrorism and organized crime: "If you are a victim of terrorism, you feel the collective trauma, but if you are a victim of organized crime, you don't."
However, organized crime is much more systematic in our country than terrorism. Huge sums of money are laundered and reinvested in our economy. If we let it go too far, at some point it will hurt many people, including people who have nothing to do with this industry. The Director-General of Customs, Christian Vanderveeren, agrees.
From the port of Antwerp, he can see the astronomical quantities of cocaine that enter the country every year. "This year, unfortunately, we are on our way to a new record. "By 2021, we will exceed 90 t," he says. As to whether the country is gradually becoming a drug state, the customs director is cautious and realistic: "We have to invest; otherwise, in five to ten years, Belgium will be a carbon copy of South America."
He concludes: "We always talk about Pablo Escobar and El Chapo, but here we are heading towards the same situation." "The challenge for politicians is to work to break this vicious circle and avoid becoming a drug state."
By Melanie Joris, Source: RTBF