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314 arrested in Europe-wide raids on drug, human traffickers

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Police and other law enforcement organizations around the world cooperated in a massive weeklong operation targeting organized crime that led to 314 arrests, the seizure or 2.4 tons of cocaine and interception of hundreds of migrants, European Union police agency Europol announced Wednesday.

Law enforcement teams in 52 countries, supported by organizations including Interpol and EU border agency Frontex, took part in the series of interlinked raids and investigations that also focused on cybercrime and airline ticket fraud.

“The results are pretty impressive, I think, in terms of the number of arrests,” Europol Director Rob Wainwright told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I’m especially happy with the impact on trafficking human beings and the number of potential victims that we identified.”

Europol said the operation intercepted 745 migrants and identified 529 victims of human trafficking.

Wainwright said that the multi-agency operation involving nations around the world is an effective way of tackling modern organized crime networks.

“Crime is becoming more cross-border and criminal networks are becoming more agile at operating in different criminal markets simultaneously,” he said.

Another focus was airline fraud and police detained 193 people suspected of traveling using tickets bought with stolen or fake credit cards.

Such fraud costs the aviation industry an estimated $1 billion a year, Europol said. Wainwright said that there are vital security implications, too.

“We cannot allow anyone, in particular serious criminals and terrorists, to travel around the world anonymously and to endanger others,” he said in a statement.

Among other raids, Greek police discovered a fake travel agency that was facilitating migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, while in Austria police raiding a brothel also discovered a cannabis plantation, triggering a new investigation.