Shipping Containers With Handcuffs, Pliers, And Scalpels Found
An investigation beginning in April 2020 resulted in the discovery of shipping containers turned into apparent torture chambers. Police in the Netherlands found 6 shipping containers that were converted into prison cells, lined with sound-proofing material and devices that could be used for torture. A statement from the National Prosecutor’s Office said, “In each of the cells, handcuffs were attached to the ceiling and floor, in order to be able to chain someone standing up with their arms raised. The rooms were finished with noise isolating panels and heat-insulating foil.” Some of the objects found during the raid included, “pruning shears, loppers, a branch saw, scalpels, pliers, extra handcuffs, fingercuffs, tape, balaclavas, and black cotton bags that can be pulled over the head.”
The unearthing of these containers was due to officers accessing an encrypted chat network, called EncroChat. EncroChat was a secure mobile phone instant messaging service that was used by 60,000 people around the world as a criminal marketplace. The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) stated that EncroChat was used to coordinate the distribution of illicit goods, money laundering, and to communicate on plans to assassinate rivals. Access to this chat network let officers track the group’s movements and helped them identify intended victims, who were warned and able to go into hiding.
On June 22, police raided the site with the shipping containers at Wouwse Plantage on the Dutch-Belgian border. In one of the containers, a dental chair was found with straps for the arms and feet. The statement from the National Prosecutor’s Office said, “The sea container with the dental chair contained bags with objects that were presumably intended to torture or at least put pressure on victims.” The containers also had cameras for remote monitoring. Six men, all from the Netherlands, were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and hostage taking. Two BMWs, 3 stolen delivery vans, 7 handguns, and a Chinese variant of the AK-47 were found. During a search of a home in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, 24 kilos (over 52 pounds) of MDMA was also found.
MDMA In The Netherlands
The 24 kilos of methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine (MDMA), also commonly called ecstasy, that were found in Rotterdam is a minuscule fraction of the synthetic drug that comes out of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest producers of ecstasy and amphetamines. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reports that, “criminal groups from the Netherlands and Belgium are the main producers and traffickers in the field of synthetic drugs in Europe.” The production of MDMA is concentrated in Belgium and the Netherlands, and has become an increasing issue over the years. The Netherlands is not only a major illicit drug producer, it can be considered the main European logistical hub for cross-border drug trafficking. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated that seized drugs were mainly produced in clandestine laboratories in the Netherlands and Belgium.
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MDMA is a stimulant and hallucinogen that produces euphoric effects and is often consumed in the nightlife scene. Although overdoes from MDMA are uncommon, there are a number of health risks associated with this drug. Regular use of MDMA can lead to depression, impulsivity, lack of appetite, concentration difficulties, sleep disturbances, and heart disease. Decreased cognitive function has occurred after a 2-year period of heavy use. When someone takes MDMA, it releases large amounts of serotonin in the brain, making them feel good. However, when the drug wears off, the brain will be depleted of serotonin and users may experience negative psychological effects days after using the drug. Addiction and abuse of drugs like MDMA fuel the dangerous illicit drug trade. Situations like the shipping containers turned torture chambers are often linked back to criminal groups that have stake in drug distribution.