Crystal meth and ketamine among the drumsticks

In 2019, Johan Pakes, a technical coach of a Physical Supervision team, found a large batch of synthetic drugs on a pallet of frozen drumsticks. A haul that started with a tip-off from the transport company that should have transported the cargo to the United Kingdom.

“Customs mainly fulfils its duties at the external border; inland, we only have a duty by virtue of Dutch excise legislation. Still, there are plenty of inland locations, such as industrial estates, where goods are transshipped and where things happen that are relevant to us to know. It’s just that our agency can’t be everywhere at the same time. That’s why since a number of years, we’ve been investing in contacts with transport companies at places of departure and destination that are relatively unknown to us. We hold initial meetings with these companies: are they reliable, are they willing to stick to the rules, can they mean something for us?”

“If our impression of the company is positive, we can ask management to assume an eyes-and-ears function on behalf of Customs. In other words, if they want to let us know if they are presented a cargo that seems not to be entirely kosher. If so, we give them a list of indicators that may indicate certain customs risks. A lot of market parties opt to collaborate with us because they too recognise the benefits. They don’t want to be associated with illegal goods and they don’t want their staff to get into trouble because of illegal goods.”

“From experience, I know that tip-offs from logistical service providers can cause quite a stir. In a roundabout way, I was told about a batch of frozen drumsticks headed for England and the transport company in question was suspicious for all sorts of reasons. When I went out there to check things out with an inspection duo – accompanied by a dog handler and a sniffer dog and a scanning operator with a scanning device – their suspicions proved to be justified: we discovered 300 kilos of crystal meth and 18 kilos of ketamine among the meat. Soon, more and more customs colleagues turned up to assist us, officers from the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service for the judicial investigation and police officers for our safety. And with good reason, when you realise that these drugs had an enormous street value. All in all, it definitely was a valuable tip-off.”

This interview also appeared in our recently issued overview ‘Dutch Customs in 2019’. Click here to read the full publication.

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