Drug criminals increasingly targeting truckers in the Netherlands: report
Drug criminals increasingly target truckers, bribing, threatening, or harassing them into transporting drugs from the ports out of the Netherlands, RTL Nieuws reports after investigating the road transport sector.
Over the past months, the broadcaster investigated how drug criminals influence road transport in the Netherlands. It spoke to over 50 truckers who had been approached by criminals in the past three years with offers or threats.
Tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine enter the port of Rotterdam every year. Criminals need to remove the drugs from containers at the port and transport them into Europe, which is why truckers are so attractive to criminals.
The director of a trucking company told RTL that one of his drivers was caught in an armed robbery. He was leaving Hoek van Holland and had to stop for a broken car. Two men pointed a gun at his head while others opened his container and retrieved packages of drugs. “This is not normal. I am certainly concerned. The number of incidents is increasing, and it is becoming more and more brutal and violent,” director Joost Visbeen of Daily Logistics Group said.
One driver said he found a note under his windscreen wiper asking “if I wanted to earn some extra money,” with a link to a Telegram account. Two others were approached by a group of young men at a gas station on the A16 highway in the middle of the night. “They were about six men. All well dressed, of those expensive brands.” When the truckers proved uninterested, the atmosphere changed. “They said if we refused, it would go in a way we didn’t like. And that they’d find out where we lived.”
Another trucker got a visit at home. The criminals pressured him to collect a container from the port of Rotterdam. He refused and noticed a car driving down his street time and again. He later also found a GPS tracker taped under his truck. The authorities searched that container and found tens of millions of euros worth of cocaine, according to RTL. “I was uneasy for a long time. It literally woke me up,” the trucker said. “Because I didn’t cooperate, I cost that organization a lot of money.”
The police established a special team to combat drug crime in road transport - Transport Facilitated Organized Crime (TFOC) - in 2021. The team receives about 150 reports from truckers about suspicious situations per year. Inspector Maikel Dop expects that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “With the growth of drug crime, the number of incidents against truck drivers is increasing,” Dop told RTL Nieuws.
According to Dop, group transports, in which different loads are transported in one truck, are particularly vulnerable to drug smuggling. “Certainly, trips to Scandinavia and the United Kingdom are popular with criminals. Drug prices are a lot higher there, so smuggling to those countries can be very lucrative.”
And truckers caught abroad with drugs in their cargo could face lengthy prison sentences if they can’t prove their innocence.
Sector organization Transport and Logistics Netherlands (TLN) is also concerned about drug criminals infiltrating the sector. “Three-quarters of the containers that leave a container terminal in Rotterdam by road have their cargo removed in the region, stored, and further transported by other trucks. This transshipment is where most incidents occur. Companies that are active in this container transport notice that the problem is getting bigger,” Paul Poppink of TLN told RTL.
The organization also hears of truckers approached by criminals. “Truck drivers drive away from a container terminal and are followed. At the first red traffic light, the car pulls up next to them, and the window goes down. ‘Do you want to make some extra money?’ they ask. But we also see other employees of transport companies, like planners, approached. It goes in all kinds of ways. On the road, but also in private time at the football club, the pub, or via social media. We have even heard that it happens on dating sites,” Poppink said.