The number of young men hired by criminal gangs to remove cocaine from cargo coming from Latin America at Rotterdam’s port is going up at the same time as the amount of cocaine being brought into the Netherlands from there. Known as “cocaine collectors,” these people are a big part of Europe’s drug supply chain. The BBC has given a rare look at their dangerous work.
Colombia’s tropical fruit may have already been taken out of this 12-meter-long metal container. There is still a lot of fruit on board, though, so it’s not all gone. Refrigerator: Cocaine with a street value of about $4 million (£3.4 million) is hidden in the refrigerator. To move the drugs from the ports to Amsterdam, Berlin, or London, they must be taken out of the container by a team of people who will take them.
The following reports and stories on this trafficking:
“The port is a gold mine! What a beautiful thing to see.” On the Dutch TV network, VPRO, journalist Danny Ghosen talks to a man who has a mask and a hood over his face. Andre Kramer, who runs a container processing business in the port, says, “We first saw them about two years ago.”
“Once or twice a year, there were only one or two. The groups of collectors have grown in size over the last six months, with 10 or 12 people meeting three or four times a week.”
If they don’t remove the cocaine from the port in some cases, they may not be able to do so. Instead, they help the gang move the drugs from one container to another, which will be taken out of the port by truck with the help of a person who knows the area. Gangs may wait in the port’s cargo area to see if drugs are coming in.
Kramer says, “We recently found three “hotel” containers.” “There are times when the collectors stay in one place for days and do their daily tasks there. Mattresses, empty water bottles, and food wrappers are all over the floor.”
After the collectors left a “hotel” container full of trash, it might be dangerous to keep it in a shipping container for a long time.
Nine young men were stuck inside a shipping container door in early September because the container was only half full of pine trunks. They couldn’t get out of the container generally because they always make sure they can open it from the inside, but this time they couldn’t.
“A lot of police and customs officers, helicopters, a fire department, and ambulances were on hand to help us search the whole place. We were lucky that we were able to find them in time.”
It took me four hours from start to finish. Some of the men had trouble with their breathing. However, Chief of Police Janse, who has been here for seven years, won’t say how the collectors were found. More than 5,000 kg of cocaine was seized by Rotterdam police in 2014. It had grown to 41,000 pounds by 2020.
By Janse, there will be 60,000 pounds this year. “Every year, we manage to break the record we set last year. I’m not proud of what we did, but each year, more and more cocaine comes into the country.” As for illegal imports, only a small amount of narcotics were found at the port.
One hundred ten collectors were arrested in less than a week in September. As long as they’re not caught in the act, they’ll only be fined less than 100 euros (about 84 pounds). They may even have cash on them to pay the fines right away if they get stopped.