(AFP) – Hundreds of police raided about 100 premises Monday in a swoop on drug gangs in the southern Netherlands, prosecutors said.
Fifty-five suspects were detained in “Operatie Trefpunt” (Operation Meeting Point), the prosecution service said in a statement, adding that 111 homes and commercial properties had been searched.
“Around 1,500 police and law enforcement officers are involved,” the statement said, adding that the operation targeted drug production, particularly cannabis and ecstasy.
Police raided a suspected meeting place for criminal gangs at a business in the small village of Best, outside Eindhoven, which had been under close surveillance for several years.
“Some 700 people visited this meeting place. They will all be intensely scrutinised to see whether they are guilty of any offences,” prosecutors said.
“Police used surveillance of the premises to initiate other investigations in which suspects were arrested, weapons found, drugs intercepted and drug labs and cannabis plantations closed down.”
Hundreds of cannabis plants were found at one house in Eidhoven, along with three kilos of cannabis and two of cocaine.
The police in recent years have stepped up their focus on the southern Dutch provinces of Zeeland, Noord Brabant and Limburg which have seen an influx of organised crime — particularly drug gangs — from other provinces.
The region is close to Europe’s largest port in Rotterdam as well as Antwerp in Belgium, both seen as major drug entry points into the continent.
The Netherlands legalised the possession, consumption and resale by retail of up to five grammes (0.18 of an ounce) of cannabis in 1976. However its cultivation and wholesale are banned and mainly controlled by criminal gangs.