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Naval commander angry about drug busts on ship

THE HAGUE, WILLEMSTAD – The two hard drug busts on board the Royal Netherlands Navy transport ship HMS Johan de Witt reflect badly on the good work that the crew of this ship has done in Abaco, the Bahamas, after Hurricane Dorian.

Naval Commander Vice-admiral Rob Kramer minced no words in the email that he sent to all navy personnel on Monday in which he expressed “great frustration” about the two hard drug confiscations on HMS Johan de Witt which shed a bad light on the emergency relief work that the crew did in the Bahamas in September.

The first confiscation took place in Curaçao on September 24: a 23-year-old crew member was arrested with 11 kilos of cocaine in his backpack shortly after the ship’s return from the Bahamas. Because there were indications that additional hard drugs were hidden on board, authorities ordered a full search when the vessel arrived at its home port Den Helder, from the Caribbean, last Thursday.

The three helicopters on board were searched, as well as other equipment and the belongings of the crew members. Because this yielded no result, the drug detection dogs of Customs went on the ship, and they discovered another 11 kilos of hard drugs, probably cocaine, hidden in an undisclosed area.

Vice-admiral Kramer was upset about the drug busts and the fact that navy personnel had engaged in this illegal trade. “There are different views in society about the use of drugs, but within the Defense organization there is an absolute no-tolerance policy regarding hard drugs.”

Kramer stated that he found it “hypocritical” when Defense personnel got involved in the use and trade of hard drugs when the countering of narcotic transports is a very important peace task of the Royal Navy in the Caribbean, a task that is carried out together with the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard.

The vice-admiral noted that he had communicated a similar message on an earlier occasion, but that apparently the temptation to get involved in hard drugs was too big for some Navy personnel.

Navy personnel have a lot to lose when they get involved in narcotics, Kramer warned. The chance of being caught is great and the consequences are severe: immediate dismissal without honor, prosecution and time in prison. “Goodbye nice job at the Navy, goodbye freedom and a criminal record that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

The 23-year-old crew member who was arrested with cocaine in his backpack in Curaçao in September is still detained and awaiting trial.

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