Detectives from the Federal Judicial Police of Antwerp have been busy for almost three years sifting through an enormous amount of messages that were intercepted and deciphered from the encrypted chat service Sky ECC, for years the favorite communication channel of the majority of Antwerp drug criminals. “During the investigation, investigators found a chat group containing Georges P. (65 from Knokke), Leo D. (51 from Mechelen) and Mustafa I. (from Germany). The group discussed setting up drug transports from Colombia,” the prosecutor explained during a trial against the three men on Friday.
Georges P., a businessman with a series of fraudulent bankruptcies on his record, seemed to direct the two others. P. was in turn controlled in another chat group called ‘Belgica’ by ‘Alkimes Hermes’ and ‘Hans’, two unknown Sky ECC users. They asked the sixty-something from Knokke to find a company to import coffee and bananas to Germany via the port of Antwerp. P. introduced Mustafa I.’s company, Taka gmbh from Cologne, through the previously convicted drug smuggler Leo D.. P. also stated that he had good contacts at the Maersk shipping company. A truck driver was also provided, who would take the containers from the port to Germany.
Once the organization was set up, the Belgians received an advance payment. Just like later payments, this was done with cash that was handed over at highway parking lots or in the parking lot of the Makro department store in Machelen. Money that, according to the public prosecutor’s office, was distributed by Leo D., including to Mustafa I. in Germany.
According to the public prosecutor’s office, the intercepted messages show that the trio first sent several ‘test containers’, containers with bananas from Colombia in which no drugs were yet hidden. According to client ‘Alkimes Hermes’, negative customs checks would ensure that they would obtain a good reference and would be subject to fewer checks afterwards. “Twelve test containers have been sent from Turbo in Colombia to quay 212 in the port of Antwerp,” the prosecutor said. “Drugs were only placed in a fourth lot of containers. Those containers were also selected by customs, they contained 337 packs of cocaine, worth 405 kilograms.” Photos of the sending of that batch of coke were also found in the Sky ECC group.
In February last year, Georges P. and Leo D. were arrested. According to the public prosecutor’s office, there was an accounting at P.’s home with all criminal payments for ‘Team Operations’. The public prosecutor’s office deduces from this that P. would have earned more than one million euros, Leo D. would have received 700,000 euros and Mustafa I. would have received 480,000 euros.
“Bad mafia movie”
P. made varying statements. “Sometimes they read like a bad mafia movie in which he imagines himself to be the protagonist. He is talking about a fraud mafia of Russians with diplomatic license plates,” the prosecutor said. “P. forgets his own role. He is the prototype of a shady manager of shady companies who only deals with criminal matters.” The prosecutor demanded a prison sentence of seven years and a fine of 32,000 euros for the three men. “This is not about blank slates that ‘couldn’t do anything about it’.”
Mustafa I. is now in a German cell and has failed to appear. Georges P. and Leo D. were present at their trial. P. indicated that he was threatened and that was why he did what he did. “My life is ruined,” he said. His lawyer, Stijn Roels, compared P. to cartoon character Theofiel Boomerang from Suske en Wiske. “Little guys, small percentages,” said Roels. “My client saw a job and at first did not realize it involved cocaine. When he realized that, he couldn’t get out anymore. I am asking for a sentence with probation conditions, he needs someone to guide him and tell him how to lead a normal life.”
“A soldier is not an officer”
Malinois Leo D. was defended by Johan Platteau. “My client was in jail for drugs, came out and met Georges P. He believed that he could pick up a few crumbs and that his financial misery would be over,” he pleaded. “The public prosecutor’s office is talking about 700,000 euros, which he did not earn. Look at the pictures of his place, there is nothing there. He may have hoped to make a lot of money but that didn’t happen. He got 2,500 euros, that’s it.” According to Platteau, it is not true that Leo D. risks the same punishment as P. “You cannot equate a soldier with an officer.” D. himself did not waste too many words on it. “I’m not going to play the victim here, but I hope for a fair punishment.”
The truck driver engaged by the group, RS from Antwerp, was previously prosecuted for the drug seizure. The man was initially sentenced to three years in prison but was acquitted by the appeals court, his lawyer Bayram Yigit confirmed.
Verdict on March 1.