Dutch police captured on Wednesday captured six men after discovering seven soundproof sea containers converted into a “torture chamber” in the small village of Wouwse Plantage close to the Belgium border.
Police from The Netherlands said that the men were arrested on suspicion of the planned kidnapping, extortion, hostage-taking, and participation in a criminal organisation.
Authorities said were tipped off by messages on EncroChat, an encrypted platform where users could speak privately between specially-designed handsets. The platform was used by criminals and was recently decoded by French authorities and shared through Europol.
“Last week, we released the investigation to crypto-communication provider EncroChat. In this investigation, the police read live … chat messages that criminals sent each other,” said Jannine van den Berg, police chief of the National Unit.
“We already announced then that there was more to come. The discovery of this underworld prison is an example of this.”
Officers put the area under surveillance from mid-April and started the investigation into a 40-year-old man from The Hague who was suspected of his involvement in drug trafficking.
“He led an existence under the radar, but our financial investigation revealed that he probably used a shed in Wouwse Plantage,” Van de Berg said.
Authorities said they discovered a few men working in the sea containers almost every day. They raided 14 locations on June 22 when they believed that the containers were almost finished.
The found containers were said to be complete with scalpels and handcuffs anchored to the floor and ceiling.
Other equipment such as hedge cutters, pliers, pruning shears, saws, and tapes, which were believed to be for torture victims or at least put them under pressure were also found in the area.
Authorities said the intended victims may have been alerted and gone into hiding and that the highly organised group was planning to use police uniforms, bulletproof vests, weapons, and stop signs in coming kidnappings.
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