Chocolate rabbits are a delicious Easter treat for children all around the world. But some bunnies seized in Belgium are far less kid-friendly...
Chocolate rabbits are a delicious Easter treat for children all around the world. But some bunnies seized in Belgium are far less kid-friendly and have (literally) put the E into Easter.
A batch of rabbits has been seized this week by veteran customs officer Pol Meuleneire, a cargo crafted from a solid lump of MDMA, the raw material for ecstasy.
The false chocolate bunnies had been parcelled up and posted in Belgium, addressed to a buyer in Hong Kong, only to be intercepted at the Brussels airport freight terminal.
Meuleneire pressed his scanner - which uses Raman spectroscopy to identify substances by their chemical fingerprint - against one supposed chocolate rabbit and took a reading. The screen flashed green with the following result: "Caution: MDMA (ecstasy)".
"So you see? It's pure MDMA," the 61-year-old said. "So here we have, bumpety-bump, one or two kilogrammes of this. With one kilogramme you make six thousand ecstasy pills."
Known as the gateway into Europe for Latin American cocaine, Belgium has now also become a turntable for mail-order synthetic drugs, made in Europe and sent worldwide.
Belgium's Antwerp is the main port of entry into Europe for Latin American cocaine, but some is re-exported by post to countries like Australia, where it fetches a higher street price. Gangs in countries like Venezuela, which export plant-based narcotics like cocaine to Europe, in turn import synthetic drugs like crystal meth from European labs.
"In 2022 we got to nearly six tonnes of drugs, seized here at the airport," explained Florence Angelici, spokeswoman for the SPF federal finance service. "It goes all over the world. Today, people can order online on the 'dark web' in a few clicks and can decide what they want and have it delivered to their homes."
Most of the mail-order exports are of synthetic drugs made in rogue labs and covert pharma plants in Belgium and especially, according to Belgian officials, the Netherlands.
Ketamine, MDMA and methamphetamine are disguised in everyday objects or packaged in jars marked as legal vitamin supplements, then mailed from ordinary post offices in Belgium, France and Germany.
"Here, we're talking mainly about using the Belgian postal service, which might attract less attention from customs officers in the arrival countries than the Dutch one," Angelici told AFP. "The smugglers use mules to transport the parcels and to post them from all over Belgium, and other European countries, and send them all around the world."
Souvenirs in Meuleneire's workspace include portraits of Jesus Christ that were held in frames stuffed with drugs, teddy bears full of pills and copper pipes packed with veterinary tranquilisers.
Happy Easter, one and all.