Belgium police raid '1.3bn-euro' Chimay drug pills factory'

A police officer conducts searches as part of a major drug investigation, on 23 August, 2013, in Chimay. Police found a laboratory for the manufacture of pills at a farm warehouse near the town of Chimay

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Police in Belgium have seized ecstasy pills and chemicals used to make drugs, worth an estimated street value of 1.3bn euros (£1.1bn; $1.7bn).

Nine men and two women, all aged 30 to 50, were arrested on Thursday and charged with possessing, manufacturing and trafficking drugs.

The suspects, from Belgium, Turkey and Poland, were part of an international criminal group, police said.

Buildings have also been searched in the Netherlands and Poland.

Two laboratories and warehouses were used to manufacture the drugs and false walls had been used to try to avoid detection, police said.

The biggest laboratory was said to have been found at a farm warehouse in a wooded area near Chimay in southern Belgium.

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Chimay Mayor Francoise Fassiaux said she was shocked by the discovery, complaining rural areas "are no longer protected from serious crime".

"We found a total of 600kg (1,300lb) of chemical products and materials. You can make 1.5 million pills with 25kg. Imagine what they could make with 600kg!" said Wenke Roggen, a spokeswoman for Belgium's federal prosecutor's office.

"It is the biggest such bust ever in Belgium and one of the largest in Europe.''

On Friday, workers in biohazard suits were still engaged in a clean-up operation at the site.

"We should strengthen our surveillance on these roads," Mayor Fassiaux told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

Some of the synthetic drugs were found in a garage on the outskirts of the capital, Brussels.

All of the suspects were part of a criminal syndicate that had been in existence for a number of years, judicial sources said.

Police officers conduct searches as part of a major drug investigation, on August 23, 2013, in Chimay. The major drug investigation centres on the warehouse in woodland near Chimay southern Belgium

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