“We want to tackle drugs as close to the source as possible”

Enforcement director Kim Kuipers reports on the ongoing fight against the smuggling of narcotics.

In the service of the Ministry of Justice and Security, Dutch Customs enforces the Dutch Opium Act. Enforcement director Kim Kuipers is actively involved in the fight against drug trafficking. “Investing in contacts around the world pays off: our intelligence position is getting stronger and stronger.”

“When it comes to the fight against drugs, the focus has always been mainly on cocaine coming in from Latin America and, since a couple of years, also explicitly on outgoing synthetic drugs”, enforcement director Kim Kuipers explains. “It’s our duty to prevent these drugs from crossing the European border and to make sure that we don’t burden other countries with the junk produced in our country. The priorities of our enforcement are determined in close consultation with our policy partners of the Ministry of Justice and Security. Several times a year, I talk to them about what we encounter during our checks and any trends we may spot; they mainly outline the political spectrum in which they act. At the moment, the spotlights are predominantly aimed at the undermining agenda of Minister Grapperhaus: government-wide measures against organised crime and tackling criminal sources of income in particular. It’s nice to be able to contribute our specific knowledge and experience to this. Together with partners such as the Public Prosecution Service and the police, we’re able to operate increasingly effectively.”

“In 2019, we noticed a considerable percentage-wise increase in the number of coke hauls and the number of intercepted kilos, especially in the port of Rotterdam. One reason for this is our intelligence position, which is getting stronger and stronger. During the past few years, we’ve strengthened our ties with our sister organisations, among others. For instance, Belgian and Brazilian customs, and in the latter case, our own attaché in Brasilia plays a prominent role. We exchange a lot of useful information and it yields results. In other words, investing in contacts around the world pays off.”

“Our colleagues in South America have said they want to be our first line of defence. It means they will do everything they can to dismantle smuggling networks at an early stage – so on their own territory, as close to the production and distribution basis as possible. This way, we think the chances of cocaine reaching our ports are the smallest.”

“Vice versa, Dutch customs tries to play a similar role when it comes to synthetic drugs. We don’t want export shipments with pills and powders that were manufactured here to reach their country of destination, but stop them here, at the front. The tricky thing is that dealers tend to send their gear by mail; we’re talking many thousands of envelopes and parcels. Getting a better grip on that flow is a challenge but fortunately, we’re getting better at it. During the past year, we’ve increased the number of targeted checks at postal and courier services, perhaps, tenfold. However, we shouldn't just be checking more, we should also be smarter in how we check. That’s why we want to start using innovative scanning and detection technologies. We think that self-thinking software and algorithms will help us to recognise banned substances in mail and parcels better and quicker.”

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

Navigate further, and also read ‘Crystal meth and ketamine among the drumsticks’.

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