Illegal fireworks increasingly resembling drug trade
The trade in illegal fireworks is increasingly resembling drug trafficking - deals are made through encrypted messaging services, runners are walking the streets not knowing whose fireworks they are delivering, and a number of players are responsible for importing tens of thousands of kilograms of heavy fireworks per year, the police and Public Prosecution Service said to newspapers AD and De Telegraaf.
According to the authorities, the sale of illegal fireworks is in the hands of at least a thousand traders and a few dozen criminal networks. Traffickers use smuggling routes and contacts from the drug trade, making violence and threats increasingly common. "Suspects in the fireworks trade are also often involved in drug trafficking or the trade of illegal cigarettes," prosecutor Karin Boere said to AD.
"People are also put under pressure in the fireworks world to do or not do something, for example talking to the police," Boere said. "And we see rip deals. It is not without reason that people often go to a fireworks appointment in pairs to make a purchase, to avoid being robbed." A rip deal usually occurs in a drug deal, when one party takes off with both cash and product.
Fireworks are banned in the Netherlands this New Year's, to avoid putting extra pressure on a healthcare system already overburdened by the coronavirus pandemic. Last week Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security also banned the transport of fireworks, which means you're no longer allowed to move fireworks in the Netherlands by car or on foot.
The police still expect to have their hands full with illegal fireworks this year. Over the weekend, 800 kilograms of illegal fireworks were found in a storage room in an apartment building in Geldrop.