Since 2005, Europol has supported the Synthetic Drugs Group of COSPOL (Comprehensive Operational Strategic Planning for the Police). In February 2010, based on Europol analysis and ongoing inquiries in several Member States, COSPOL selected one specific 'high-value target' (HVT) for joint investigation. Together with Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, Europol initiated a joint operation focusing on the organised crime group that was led by the selected HVT involved in the large-scale production of synthetic drugs.
In May 2010, it became clear that the suspects were ready to start up their synthetic drug production process in Belgium. Europol's operational and technical support was requested by the Belgian Federal Police of Hasselt, to potentially dismantle the illegal production site. Europol sent 'on-the-spot' support and provided detailed technical investigation and expertise. As a result, the Hasselt Federal Police, in close cooperation with Europol, dismantled a large sophisticated illicit drug laboratory, which had the potential to produce hundreds of kilograms of synthetic drugs. The European street value of such production was estimated to be several million euros. Six main suspects were arrested in Belgium and large quantities of chemicals were seized. At the same time, the Dutch judicial authorities carried out house searches and seized more synthetic drugs, cocaine, large amounts of money and chemicals. Links to other illegal synthetic drug production sites (e.g. in Germany and the Netherlands) have been already identified via the Europol Illicit Laboratory Comparison System.
Europol was involved in this successful operation from the very start, in February 2010, in terms of initiating the joint targeting of the HVT. During the operation, Europol provided 13 analytical reports and one specialist report to investigators. Two operational in-house meetings and on-the-spot technical support were also provided. As a result of these joint activities, the main targets were sentenced to six years in prison.