Mexican cartel tied to booby-trapped floating drug lab in Dutch police sting

Police investigating a crystal meth lab found on a cargo boat in Moerdijk, 10 May 2019
Police investigating a crystal meth lab found on a cargo boat in Moerdijk, 10 May 2019. (Photo: Politie)

The police discovered a large crystal meth lab on a cargo river boat in Moerdijk on Friday afternoon. The boat turned out to be booby-trapped. While the police were raiding it on Friday night, the boat suddenly started sinking.

A total of four men were arrested, three of whom are from Mexico. So far the police said nothing about the suspects' backgrounds, but according to De Telegraaf they may be tied to a Mexican drug cartel. 

The drug lab on the river boat was discovered at around 1:20 p.m. on Friday, during a police check on the cargo boat moored on the Havenkent. A police officer became unwell on the ship, because he inhaled chemicals. He was treated in hospital and sent home to recover. 

The area around the boat was initially cordoned off due to the chemical smell. But once the boat was aired out, only the boat itself was cordoned off. Specialist police services, like the drug lab-dismantling service and forensic investigators, were deployed to the boat for investigation. While the investigation was still ongoing, at around 00:30 a.m. on Saturday, the boat suddenly started sinking. Water poured into the boat at a high speed. Police officers had to immediately stop what they were doing and leave the boat.

"Investigation showed that a kind of booby trap had been put into operation. A pump was presumably turned on remotely, which could sink the boat", the police said in a statement. Various parties immediately started working on preventing the boat from sinking, and fuel and drug chemicals ending up in the water. Rijkswaterstaat placed a kind of screen around the boat, to keep the chemicals inside it from spreading. "When the pump suddenly stopped, the emergency services regained control of the situation and the danger of sinking and pollution had passed", the police said.

"Fortunately, a large amount of trace evidence and valuables had already been secured", the police said. The  boat sank around 1.5 meters before it was stopped. On Saturday a specialist company pumped tons of possibly contaminated water out of the boat, and took it away in tankers. 

The police continued its investigation on Saturday. So far investigators found over 300 liters of methamphetamine oil. The market value for one kilogram of methamphetamine is around 15 thousand euros, according to the police. In a 40-foot container outside the lab, the police found 10 thousand liters of drug waste and chemicals for making crystal meth. 

The arrested suspects are a 65-year-old man from Breda and three men from Mexico aged 23, 26 and 37 years. They are all still in custody. According to the police, this is the first time that a drug lab was found in such a large boat in the Netherlands. 

The police shared a video showing investigators hastily leaving the sinking ship with whatever they can carry:

 

 

Drug lab found on a cargo boat in Moerdijk, 10 May 2019
Drug lab found on a cargo boat in Moerdijk, 10 May 2019. (Photo: Politie)

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