Body scanner Curaçao airport is not being used

WILLEMSTAD - The body scanner at Hato airport in Curaçao is not broken, as the mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb claimed last week, but the scanner is currently not being used either.

This is according to customs spokesman for the Post Hato, Etienne Cacciano. Why the scanner is not used, he cannot comment.

Aboutaleb was in Curaçao last week for a working visit and told the Dutch news media NOS that "most drug scanners in both the port and airport of Curaçao have been broken for years". Inquiry shows that there is one scanner at Hato, which is not in use. The two container scanners at the port have been broken for a year. That does not mean that there is no checking, says Cacciano.

Hato team

"The Hato team is active at the airport," says Cacciano. This team screens passengers on European flights from the moment they check in until they board the plane. Cacciano cannot say how this happens but emphasizes that the team is “trained to recognize those smuggling drugs”. The screening is mainly based on external characteristics.

A smuggler was caught two weeks ago. “We immediately pick up someone like that, we do our work. Only if we are just too late and the person is already on the plane, do we inform customs at Schiphol.”

The approach to drug smugglers was boosted after Germany rang the bell when Airberlin started operated to and from Curaçao.

The Hato team now only consists of customs. "We are working on expanding the team with the members of the Curaçao Police Force and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, as it used to be."

Container scanners broken

Luthsel Lourens, head of customs at the port, says it is true that the two container scanners in the port have been broken for a year. This means that checks of the containers are done "physically". But only with containers that are imported. “Departing containers are only checked if there is a tip from the authorities that they might contain drugs. We are responsible for the safety and health of our society and therefore we check all containers that arrive. The final destination is responsible for this. Containers that go to Rotterdam must therefore be checked there.”

The customs of Curacao (falls under Finance Minister Gijsbertha) does not believe to be responsible for what may be placed in containers in the Curacao port itself.

According to Lourens, one of the container scanners will be repaired again soon. “That saves manpower. But we need a plan B.” In the 29 years that he worked for customs, Lourens regularly found drugs in containers. According to him, it means no more than a kilo or a few grams. “No drugs are produced in Curaçao. If you compare it with the Netherlands, relatively little comes in through the port. "

How many drug smugglers have been arrested this year, the Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecution Service cannot yet say.

The container scanners and the scanners for importing goods at the airport are the responsibility of customs, which in turn falls under the Ministry of Finance. The Minister of Justice, Quincy Girigorie, is only responsible for the body scanner. He does not want to make a statement about the scanner, because it concerns "operational information regarding safety and the investigation of criminal offenses".

“The detection and prevention of drug transport via Curaçao to the Netherlands has the emphatic attention of Justice and must be tackled jointly in the Kingdom. Curaçao takes its responsibility in this seriously," Girigorie said in a short response.

Parliamentary questions

Members of the Second Chamber André Bosman and Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius (both VVD) have asked the Minister of Justice and Security and the Undersecretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations questions about Aboutaleb's statements.

By Leoni Schenk
Photo: Waiting room body scanner (credit: Dick Drayer - Persbureau)