AntwerpPosted: January 5, 2022
Authorities have seized 88 metric tons of cocaine stashed in containers from Latin America this year, nearly 10 times the figure in 2014. It is far more than any other European port, as traffickers flood the continent with so much cocaine that it may now be a bigger market than the U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
from “Inside Europe’s Cocaine Gateway: ‘A Repeat of Miami in the 1980s’ Antwerp, now the No. 1 port in Europe for cocaine busts, has seen a rise in gang violence and corruption” by James Marson in the WSJ.
The cash tsunami is distorting Antwerp’s economy, officials say, jacking up prices for real estate and existing businesses.
“Bad money drives out good money,” said Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever. “They will chase out honest people.”
Some companies are used to launder money, from restaurants to luxury car dealers. Far more widespread and pernicious are companies that undermine and disrupt the legal economy, said Yve Driesen, director of the Federal Judicial Police in Antwerp.
Drug traffickers buy restaurants or shops to give the impression that their fortunes derive from legal commerce. Front companies also use legal activities to hide their illegal drugs-related work. For example, a transport company that extracts cocaine from shipping containers could also carry out legal transport on behalf of multinationals.
“They will win contracts because their prices are lower than competitors,” said Mr. Driesen.
Other companies have popped up to service the criminals. Resellers of encrypted phones depend on drug gangs who are the only ones able to afford contracts that can cost thousands of dollars a year, officials say. Companies rent out luxury cars for the equivalent of $1,000 a day and more.
My reaction to this is: time to legalize it? It seems clear that Europeans want cocaine really bad. What we’re doing isn’t working. If we imagine legalization causes a massive spike in cocaine use, can that be worse than the warping effect of trying to defy reality? The most urgent cocaine related problem here in Los Angeles at the moment is people dying from cocaine laced with fentanyl. Would that problem be made better or worse with legalization? Honestly some of the high octane coffee people consume around me seems as mind-altering as cocaine.
You can’t put law on people if it’s not in their hearts
as a Florida law enforcement official once put it to me, in a conversation about Key West.
Recalling what former mayor of London Ken Livingstone said during a campaign in 2012:
Equally, because I have been around for a long time, I’ve also learned how much of what you are told is bulllshit. And when I hear so many people in the City say they’re all going to go [because of higher taxes], the simple fact is we really only have one rival, and that is New York. You are not going to have major banks in the City relocate to Shanghai because there’s a degree of political uncertainty, perhaps decades ahead. They are not going to Frankfurt because young men want to go out on the pull and do a load of cocaine and they can’t really do that easily in Frankfurt. So you need to have a dynamic city. Our only real rival is New York.
(Livingstone lost that election, Boris Johnson won.)