Six men have been arrested by Dutch police following the discovery of several sea containers that had been converted into improvised "torture chambers," according to CTV News.
"Six of the containers were intended as cells in which people could be tied up and one container was intended as a torture chamber," said Andy Kraag, head of the police's National Investigation Service. In a video statement released by the police, Kraag added that the success of the operation "prevented a number of violent crimes."
The makeshift prison containers were complete with dentist's chairs, tools such as pliers, scalpels and handcuffs. They had also been sound-proofed. Dutch authorities raided the torture chamber last month, before they had the chance to be used. After the raid, they then alerted potential victims who were able to go into hiding.
Hundreds of suspects have subsequently been arrested following the decoding of an encrypted communications network that was being used by criminal's phones.
The French police were responsible for cracking the code and cooperated with both Dutch and British detectives in the arrests. The arrests were made based on the encrypted messages that had been circulated on suspect's phones.
The discovery is a window into the Netherlands' criminal underworld which has become increasingly violent over the past few years as drug production and human trafficking has escalated to a mass scale.
Using the code-name 26Lemont for their investigation, Dutch police intercepted more than a million text messages from EncroChat phones, which resulted in the arrest of over 100 suspects.
The investigation also led to the seizure of over 8,000 kilograms of cocaine, 1,200 kilograms of crystal meth and dozens of weapons. Nineteen synthetic drug labs were also dismantled in the aftermath of the investigation.
The seven sea containers were discovered in a warehouse in Wouwse Plantage, a small village the Netherlands' southwest, near Belgium. The discovery led initially to the arrest of six men on suspicion of crimes including preparing kidnapping and serious assault on June 22.
Photos of the containers and dentist's chair with arm and leg straps were among those intercepted by the EncroChat phone messages which is what tipped off the Dutch authorities as to their location.
In the messages, the warehouse was referred to as the "treatment room" and "ebi" which is a reference to a top security prison in the Netherlands. The messages also revealed certain identities of potential victims, whom police quickly notified so they could go into hiding.
Inside the "torture chamber" was tools such as pliers, hedge cutters and sclapels that police believe, "were likely intended to torture victims or at least put them under pressure," said the police statement.
In the port city of Rotterdam, police also uncovered what they are describing as a base for the criminals that had body armour and uniforms, stolen vehicles, drugs and 25 firearms.
"This is a great result of the 26Lemont investigation," said Kraag. "And, take it from me, many more results will follow."