Europol dismantles Balkan cartel supplying drugs from South America

NEWS 14.06.202417:45 0 komentara
Europol

Forty individuals have been arrested and eight tons of cocaine seized as a result of a four-year international police operation targeting a criminal network smuggling large quantities of drugs from South America to Europe via West Africa and the Canary Islands. The extensive investigation, led by Spain's Guardia Civil in coordination with Europol’s operational task force, revealed that the Balkan cartel utilized logistics hubs in West Africa and the Canaries to traffic cocaine from Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador into EU countries. Pročitaj više

Once the drugs arrived in Europe, they were distributed across the continent using centers in Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

In a statement released on Thursday, Europol noted that the leaders of the drug trafficking organization were temporarily based in Turkey and Dubai.

“From there, they managed the control and command centers of the criminal network. Investigations into this network identified a significant threat – the ability of criminal actors to closely cooperate and deploy their associates on a long-term basis to facilitate their large-scale drug trafficking operations,” Europol stated.

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Europol also emphasized that cooperation among nine national forces – Brazil, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates – was crucial in dismantling the network.

The involvement of Guardia Civil forces began in September 2020 when police intercepted a yacht flying the Croatian flag, bound for the Canary Islands, carrying one ton of cocaine. They soon discovered that the yacht had received the drug shipment from a cargo ship in the Gulf of Guinea. Encrypted communications obtained from the devices of three individuals arrested on the yacht were shared with Europol, which was already investigating the cartel.

In August last year, Guardia Civil intercepted another vessel carrying 700 kg of cocaine in waters near the Canaries. Data collected from that arrest indicated that the same Italian-Croatian crew had used the vessel for a similar run to bring 500 kg of cocaine from Brazil.

When Europol shared Spanish intelligence data with other partner countries, it became evident that police in Belgium, Germany, and Serbia were pursuing the same individual and their associates.

As part of the ongoing investigation, Spanish police arrested four individuals in Malaga and Tenerife on Wednesday, seizing jewelry, luxury watches, a firearm, electronic equipment, and 109,000 euros in cash.

Guardia Civil stated that the “unprecedented” international police cooperation succeeded in dismantling the West African logistics centers used by the cartel to distribute cocaine throughout the EU.

“The operation resulted in the seizure of nearly eight tons of cocaine, 40 arrests in various countries, the confiscation of 12.5 million euros in cash across several European nations, 3 million dollars in Brazil, and the freezing of more than 50 million euros in Serbia,” the statement added.

In August last year, Spanish police seized 9.5 tons of cocaine hidden among banana boxes in a container shipped from Ecuador to the southern Spanish port of Algeciras. The haul was the largest ever found in a single container in Spain, according to police at the time.

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