49 arrested as police dismantle European cocaine ‘supercartel’

BRUSSELS (AP) — Law enforcement authorities in six different countries have joined forces to crack down on a “super cartel” of drug dealers who control about a third of Europe’s cocaine trade, the agency said Monday. the crime of the European Union.

Europol said 49 suspects were arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids in Europe and the United Arab Emirates between November 8 and 19.

The agency said that police forces involved in “Operation Desert Light” attacked both the “command and control center and the logistics infrastructure of drug trafficking in Europe.”

More than 30 metric tons of drugs were seized during investigations carried out in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates with the support of Europol. The US Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in the downfall of the organization, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.

“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the control and command of the suspects was enormous,” Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communications to organize the drug shipments.

The Netherlands was the country where most arrests were made, with 14 suspects arrested in 2021. Europol said six “high-value targets” were arrested in Dubai.

Dutch authorities said one of the suspects arrested in Dubai allegedly imported thousands of kilos of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021. The 37-year-old man with Dutch and Moroccan nationality is also being prosecuted for laundering large amounts of money and possession. of firearms Police began investigating him after investigators cracked the Sky ECC encrypted messaging service, which is popular with criminals.

A 40-year-old Bosnian-Dutch citizen was also arrested in Dubai following an investigation based on intercepted Sky messages, according to Dutch police. He is suspected of importing cocaine and raw materials for the production of amphetamines into Europe.

Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe. Its availability on the continent has never been greater, with extremely high purity and low prices.

In 2020, more than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in the region, 6% more than the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that this amount could reach 300 metric tons in 2022.