The scheme sounds like a work of near science fiction. But police in the Netherlands and Belgium insist its true, and say they have the evidence to prove it: two tons of cocaine and heroin, a machine gun, a suitcase stuffed with $1.7 million, and hard drive cases turned into hacking devices.
The plot, which began in 2011, reportedly involved a mix of international drug gangs and digital henchmen: drug traffickers recruited hackers to penetrate computers that tracked and controlled the movement and location of shipping containers arriving at Antwerp’s port. The simple software and hardware hacks—using USB keyloggers and more sophisticated purpose-built devices—allowed traffickers to send in drivers and gunmen to steal particular containers before the legitimate owner arrived.
The scheme was first noticed last year, when workers at a container terminal in Antwerp began to wonder why entire containers—said to contain cargo like bananas and timber—were disappearing from the port. In January, the plot appeared to culminate in a daring raid in the province of Limburg, near Antwerp. A truck that had left the port and was unwittingly carrying containers stuffed with drugs was attacked by suspects armed with AK-47 assault rifles. According to police, the gang had assumed the driver, who was not killed, was from a rival drug gang.