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UAE extradites alleged drug baron from Dubai to Belgium

By AFP

March 29, 2024 10:30 PM


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One of Belgium's most-wanted suspected drug smugglers was extradited from Dubai on Friday, the Belgian justice ministry said.

Nordin El Hajjioui, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, is believed to be one of the main drug barons in Antwerp and is wanted in at least three cocaine trafficking cases.

Emirati officials first arrested the 36-year-old in 2020 in Dubai after a request from Belgium but then released him. He was taken back into custody last year.

He challenged his extradition in the courts but a top Emirati court gave the green light in early March.

Belgium's VRT channel said the suspect, known as "Big Nordin", was flown out on a plane specially chartered by Belgian authorities and was expected to land in Brussels late Friday.

The Antwerp public prosecutor's office told AFP the three cases which El Hajjioui is wanted for involved a "massive importation" of cocaine into Europe.

The port of Antwerp is the main European gateway for cocaine coming from Latin America.

Belgium signed an extradition agreement with the United Arab Emirates in December 2021. Officials say several suspected drug barons reside in that country in a bid to escape European jurisdictions.

Europe made a significant breakthrough in the fight against drug smuggling in 2021 after Belgium, working with French and Dutch police, cracked an encrypted communications network called Sky ECC that had been favored by criminal gangs.

That trail led to suspects living in Dubai, leading to at least seven international arrest warrants being issued for them.

The first extradition from the UAE to Belgium was an Albanian trafficker in December 2023. Belgian authorities are still seeking the handover of some 20 more citizens, a source close to the matter said.


AFP


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