In a landmark operation supported by Europol and led by Belgium (Asse Federal Police, in close cooperation with the Belgian Lab Intervention Team), law enforcement authorities have dismantled the largest illicit synthetic drugs production facility ever discovered in Europe and seized huge quantities of chemicals for producing ecstasy.
Following around 30 police raids in Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland, 14 main suspects were arrested and, in Belgium, 11 (nine men and two women) have been charged with possessing, manufacturing and trafficking drugs. The suspects, from Belgium, Bulgaria and Poland, are thought to be part of a well-established international organised crime group.
A vast drugs laboratory was found hidden within the premises of a farm near Chimay, in southern Belgium. One Bulgarian arrested worked as the ‘chemist’ and was discovered locked inside the production facility, in a concealed fitted-out apartment. In total, two clandestine laboratories and two warehouses in Belgium were raided.
The setup of this illegal laboratory was very unique due to the volume and capacity of the custom-made equipment installed. In addition to the drugs production equipment, an enormous amount of drug precursors, essential chemicals and solvents were seized. This included several tonnes of the ecstasy precursor safrole, and around a tonne of crystal MDMA, one of the purer forms of ecstasy. The drugs production equipment is estimated to be worth several hundred million euros and the laboratory had the potential to produce hundreds of kilos of synthetic drugs.
Europol supported Belgian authorities with intelligence analysis during the operation and Europol experts were also dispatched to provide three days of on-the-spot technical assistance in dismantling the hazardous drugs laboratory. Investigations are still ongoing.