A drug-trafficking gang was behind the makeshift cells and torture chamber found in shipping containers in the Netherlands, police said on Wednesday.
The main suspect is a 40-year-old man from The Hague who had been under investigation for drug trafficking, police said. Local media reported he belongs to one of the largest drug networks in the country.
On Tuesday, police had found several shipping containers repurposed for holding and torturing hostages in the southern city of Wouwse Plantage, after having arrested six suspects two weeks ago on suspicion of kidnapping and taking hostages.
The police made the arrests after intercepted phone calls and messages sent via the encrypted platform EncroChat, in which they openly discussed torturing captives.
Six of the containers seemed to be intended as prison cells, complete with sound isolation, portable toilets and handcuffs on ceilings and floors.
A seventh container, referred to as "treatment room" by the suspects, contained a dentist's chair together with surgery instruments, pliers and shears, which according to the prosecution in Rotterdam were intended for torture.
Though torture is sometimes used as means to apply pressure in criminal circles, this is the first time police have found rooms especially equipped for the purpose.
New dimension for criminals
"This is a new dimension even for criminals," a police spokesperson said.
"The image of the shipping containers is ice cold and shocking," public prosecutors said in a statement.
The group's prospective victims were also part of the criminal scene, according to the spokesperson, though police were able to warn them in time, allowing them to go underground.
The containers had not been used, police added.
For months ago, French and Dutch police intercepted phone calls and messages sent by the suspects via the encrypted platform EncroChat, which was infiltrated by European investigators two months ago.
The suspects had planned to pass as police to execute the kidnapping, as investigators found bullet proof vests, police uniforms and blue lights during the search.