Antwerp: Europe's Cocaine Gateway

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Due to historical trade links with Panama, Ecuador and Paraguay, established pathways have emerged for mass cocaine trafficking into Europe.

  • For centuries, Antwerp has served as a portal on the north-western side of the Continent for goods to flow through from across the world; diamonds, arts and fashion have enriched the city.
  • However, in recent decades a different sort of import has been making its way across the Atlantic: cocaine. In 2021, officials at the port made record seizures of almost 90 tons of the drug.
  • 90 tons of cocaine is worth an estimated €13billion. This is far more than any other Continental port and it has been suggested that the European market is now even more lucrative than in the US.
  • Although massive seizures of the drug have occured, port officials in Antwerp believe that they have not even scratched the surface of the real amounts being transported through.
  • Due to the influx, Antwerp has witnessed soaring crime rates. Gang violence and corruption are rife across the northern parts of the city. As a result the mayor has launched a war on drugs.
  • With around 68,000 people working at the port, customs have reported that it is next to impossible to figure out who is being paid to look the other way.
  • Law enforcement in the city have reported mass investments in real estate, that “pitta and barber shops sit empty whilst generating vast profits” and a number of money laundering schemes.
The New York Times
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