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Drug gang hacks into Belgian seaport, cops seize TONNE of smack

9 nabbed after shipping container system used to transport heroin, cocaine

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Police in the Netherlands and Belgium have seized a tonne of cocaine, a tonne of heroin and a suitcase stuffed with €1.3m after uncovering a massive drug smuggling operation that used hackers to break into the systems of shipping companies.

According to the Netherlands public prosecutor (statement here in Dutch), a Netherlands-based drug ring hired hackers to manipulate systems in the major port of Antwerp in their neighbouring country, Belgium, in order to arrange pick-ups.

The hackers obtained access at two container terminals by using spear phishing and malware attacks directed at port authority workers and shipping companies, before changing the location and the delivery times of containers that had the drugs in them, according to the public prosecutor.

Subsequently, the smugglers sent their own drivers to pick up drug-loaded shipping containers before the legitimate haulier could collect them.

The whole scheme, eerily similar to the set-up of the plot of season 2 of The Wire, was uncovered by police after shipping firms detected something was amiss. Police set up a bust that resulted in the seizure of about one tonne of heroin and the same amount of cocaine, Expatica.com reports.

The drug-smuggling operation extended to other ports in the region, including Rotterdam: "At the end of May, police seized 250kg of cocaine in a container of bananas leaving Antwerp for Holland [the Netherlands], after discovering 114kg of the same drug in April, concealed in a cargo of wood from Chile which was landed in the Dutch port of Rotterdam," Expatica adds.

Nine people were arrested: seven in the Netherlands and two in Belgium. Police have issued international arrest warrants for another two other suspected hackers.

Cops also seized firearms, bulletproof vests and large sums of money, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports. (Dutch-language link, English translation via Google available here). ®

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