Brabant car hire companies work closely with criminals: police

Drugs found in rental car (Photo: Politie)Drugs found in rental car (Photo: Politie)

Many car hire companies in Brabant are working hand in hand with criminals involved in serious crime, the Zeeland-West Brabant police revealed on Thursday after months of investigation. According to the police, these companies rent cars to criminals that are equipped with hidden compartments to  hide drugs, weapons and money.

The investigation focusing on car hires was launched late last year after investigators noticed a remarkable figure - Tilburg has 34 registered car hire companies and 22 unregistered ones. While the city of Groningen, which has about the same population, only has 19. The difference can not be economically explained, the police said in a statement on their website.

Recently there were two incidents of rental cars being pulled over and suspicious substances being found. On June 18th police officers pulled over a Fiat Punto for speeding in Tilburg Noord. The driver, a 23-year-old Tilburg resident, handed over his license and rental agreement for the car. In the car the police saw several broken plastic bags and empty new zip seal bags. The driver had 1,250 euros in his pockets.

Given the suspicious circumstances, the police seized the car and had a sniffer dog search it. They found hard drugs hidden in the compartments for operating electric windows in both the left- and right front doors of the car. The bags contained about 200 grams of crystal shaped chunks of MDMA and 14 baggies of cocaine. A suspect was arrested.

On Friday, June 24th, the police checked a Volkswagen Polo on Oesterdam in Tholen. The car was on the name of a rental company, whose owner was registered as a tax defaulter. The 19-year-old driver, from Bergen op Zoom, told the officers that a friend lent him the car to go pick up food.

The car was seized and searched by a sniffer dog. During the search they found a hidden compartment left of the steering column. In it they found a bag containing 31 "pony packs" of cocaine. A suspect was arrested and searches were done in Oud Gastel where several hundred grams of what the police believe is cocaine was found.

In addition to daily traffic checks, the police also searched 10 car hire companies in Zeeland and West Brabant this week. During these searchers a number of illegal items were found and confiscated, including cannabis, items related to cannabis plantations and an automatic weapon.

This investigation forms part of a larger approach to so-called "undermining crime" in which the Brabant police are focused on drug dealing, money laundering, outlaw motorcycle gangs and similar crimes that mix with society. For this part of the investigation the police, Public Prosecutor, municipalities, Tax Authorities, Koninklijke Marechaussee and Customs worked closely together.