A few days before New Year's Eve, German and Dutch police officers seized tons of illegal, highly dangerous fireworks in the border region. The largest amount of the approximately 250 tons of pyrotechnics was stored in a bunker complex near Ochtrup on the state border of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia and about 20 kilometers from the Dutch city of Enschede.
Two suspects who are said to have traded in the illegal firecrackers were arrested in the Netherlands. You were considered the head of a group of suspects, said a spokesman for the Osnabrück police department. There are other suspects.
Inflammable fireworks of the heaviest category
According to the investigators, the suspects are said to have offered the fireworks for sale in web shops, mainly in the Netherlands. The goods could then be picked up from shops in the border region. From early Tuesday morning, the Dutch police and the Osnabrück Criminal Inspectorate responsible on the German side, with numerous emergency services, in addition to the bunker complex near Ochtrup, also had other sales outlets and business addresses of the suspects' companies in The Hague, Enschede and Haaksbergen as well as in Bad Bentheim, Ahaus, Papenburg and Kranenburg searched.
"A lot of the fireworks found are banned for Dutch consumers because they are too dangerous," said Jack Sijm, fireworks expert at the Dutch police. Fireworks of the heaviest category were found, such as "Shells", which are not permitted in Germany or the Netherlands. "Shells" are "life-threatening," said the expert. The police now want to get as many fireworks as possible that have already been sold back from the buyers. The confiscated pyrotechnics should be properly destroyed. The market value of the firecrackers that have now been secured is more than 15 million euros.
The accused are said to have used 9 of around 100 bunkers in the bunker complex near Ochtrup, which was formerly used by the military, as a storage facility. According to the investigators, coincidence also played into their hands during the raid on the site: a semi-trailer truck, which delivered 25 tons of illegal firecrackers from the port of Rotterdam in a sea container on Tuesday, rolled straight in front of the officers. This delivery was also confiscated, said a spokesman.
In October there were already eleven arrests
The searches are the investigators' second strike against the scene in the border triangle within a few months. Investigators had already arrested eleven suspects in the Netherlands in October. At that time, around 350 tons of illegal firecrackers worth around 25 million euros were seized during searches in the border region. This pyrotechnics is said to have been transported from China to the Netherlands via several countries.
In order to combat the trade in illegal fireworks, the Dutch police have, according to their own statements, made increased efforts to international cooperation between the investigative authorities in recent years - for example, a task force was set up specifically for banned fireworks. In the Netherlands, the police had already confiscated tons of illegal firecrackers in the past few weeks.
The Association of the Pyrotechnics Industry (VPI) used the previous cross-border searches by the investigating authorities as an opportunity to draw attention to the danger of illegal pyrotechnics. "Illegal fireworks are not fun, but a life-threatening threat to life and limb," said CPI chairman Thomas Schreiber in a statement. Since manufacturers and retailers of fireworks have recently noticed a trend towards firing illegal pyrotechnics, the association wanted to set up an association's own group of experts, it was said in mid-November.
High load in the clinics on New Year's Eve
After the sale of fireworks was banned in Germany in the past two years due to the pandemic, the clinics in the Federal Republic are now preparing for a normal New Year's Eve - in other words: a high burden on the clinics due to injuries.
"We have to assume that the hospitals and their emergency rooms will be as heavily burdened with fireworks injuries on New Year's Eve as they were in the years before the pandemic," said the CEO of the German Hospital Association, Gerald Gaß, the editorial network Germany (RND). In view of the dramatic situation in many German clinics, health policy spokesmen for the FDP and the Greens in the Bundestag warned of further exposure to injuries caused by New Year's Eve firecrackers.