Brussels — Law enforcement authorities in six different countries have joined forces to take down a "super cartel" of drugs traffickers controlling about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe, the European Union crime agency said on Monday. Europol said 49 suspects have been arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the United Arab Emirates taking place between November 8-19.
The agency said police forces involved in "Operation Desert Light" targeted both the "command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe."
Over 30 tons of drugs were seized during the investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organization, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.
"The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects' control and command was massive," Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communications to organize drugs shipments.
The Netherlands was the country where most of the arrests were made, with 14 suspects arrested in 2021. Europol said six "high-value targets" were arrested in Dubai.
A video posted on social media by Europol (above) showed members of various law enforcement agencies, including Spain's Guardia Civil and the U.S. DEA, carrying out raids, seizing property including jewellery and luxury vehicles, and taking people into custody.
Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe. Its availability on the continent has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices.
More than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in the region in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 300 tons in 2022.
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