Police discover largest synthetic drugs production site ever found in the EU

The Hague, the Netherlands
23 October 2013
© Europol

Synthetics drugs production further increasing in Belgium and the Netherlands

A vast illegal ecstasy laboratory has been discovered and dismantled in Belgium, and five suspects have been arrested. The male suspects (four Dutch and one Belgian) are thought to be part of a well-established international organised crime group.
Following a raid on 18 October by Belgian Police, who were supported by Europol experts, the huge drugs laboratory was found hidden within the premises of an old pig barn near Opglabbeek, in the northwest border area of Belgium and the Netherlands.

The illegal drugs production facility covered 1000 square metres and contained high volume custom-made equipment. Police seized and removed 35 tonnes of chemicals in the raid. The lab contained materials and products valued at around EUR 3 million.

The laboratory had significant output capacity and is estimated to have been able to produce several hundred kilos of MDMA per week. With a street value of between EUR 2250 to EUR 6000 per kilo, MDMA produced from this laboratory is likely to have resulted in several million euros of turnover each month during active production.

In the first 10 months of 2013, a similar number of laboratories were detected in Belgium and the Netherlands as 2012, however the quantity of precursor chemicals seized has nearly doubled in 2013. This is a clear indication that output has increased significantly.

During the early hours of 21 October, the lab and remaining equipment went up in flames and in a short time the whole barn was ablaze. The fire was so huge that the exact cause cannot yet be confirmed, however due to the suspicious circumstances, police cannot rule out that it may have been a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence.

“This is the second seizure of a high-capacity illegal synthetic drugs laboratory in Belgium within three months (Chimay, 23 August 2013). In both cases, the producers set up in a large farm in a rural area to avoid discovery and establish a large enough laboratory to produce significant amounts of drugs. It is likely that there will be additional discoveries in similar locations due to the number and availability of such premises in rural areas of Belgium and the Netherlands, and their attractiveness as cannabis cultivation sites and synthetic drug laboratories.

These discoveries back up the findings of Europol’s 2013 EU Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA), which warns of the growing threat of synthetic drugs production in the EU. Large-scale MDMA production is back in the EU and we will make it a priority to identify the organised criminal structures responsible,” says Michael Rauschenbach, Europol’s Head of Serious and Organised Crime.

Europol supported Belgian authorities with intelligence analysis during the operation and Europol experts were also dispatched to provide two days of on-the-spot technical assistance in dismantling the hazardous drugs laboratory. Investigations are still ongoing.

  *  GAOZ Local Police, in close cooperation with the Belgian Lab Intervention Team.