BRUSSELS (AP) – 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 yesterday.
Europol said 49 suspects have been arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) taking place between November 8 to 19.
The agency said police forces involved in ‘Operation Desert Light’ targetted both the “command-and-control centre and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe”.
Over 30 tonnes of drugs were seized during the investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organisation, 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 organise drug 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.
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 tonnes of cocaine were seized in the region in 2020, a six-per-cent increase from the previous year and experts from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 300 tonnes in 2022.