Europol announced the take down of massive cocaine trafficking network’, described as a drug “super cartel” that controlled about a third of Europe’s cocaine supply
Dubbed ‘Operation Desert Light’, authorities in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates in joint effort brought down cartel
Over 30 tonnes [30,000kg] of drugs seized during the two-year-long investigation by Europol
Focused mainly on cocaine imported from South America via the Netherlands where most of the arrests were made in 2021
The operation led to the arrest of 49 people, six described as “high-value targets”, including British man suspected of heading the super cartel who had fled to Dubai after eluding arrest in Spain
Dutch suspect, described as a “big fish”, with alleged links to high-profile Dutch crime boss Ridouan Taghi, was also held
Dutch prosecutors will request the extradition of the suspects from the UAE to face large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering charges
A drug “super cartel” that controlled about a third of Europe’s cocaine supply has been dismantled, police have announced.
Dubbed Operation Desert Light, 49 people were arrested across six European countries, the EU’s police agency, Europol, said.
They included a British national, who is suspected of heading the operation.
Over 30 tonnes [30,000kg], of drugs were seized during the two-year-long investigation, Europol said.
Operation Desert Light saw authorities in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates [UAE], work together to bring down the cartel, Europol said in a statement.
Those arrested included six “high-value targets” – those most wanted by international police. Two of the high-value targets were arrested in Dubai.
Europol revealed that between November 8 and 19, Coordinated raids were carried out across Europe and the UAE, targeting both the command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe.
The break down of suspects nabbed include 13 in Spain, 6 suspects arrested in France, 10 were arrested in Belgium 10 in addition to 4 high-value targets who were arrested in Dubai. Earlier in 2021, 14 suspects tied to the cartel were arrested in the Netherlands with along with 2 high-value targets who were arrested in Dubai.
The suspects, considered as high-value targets by Europol, had come together to form what was known as a ‘super cartel’ that controlled around one-third of the cocaine trade in Europe.
Europol said the “drugpins” had formed a “prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering.”
It added that the scale of the drug operation was “massive”.
It is the latest in a series of police efforts to hack encrypted phones used by organized crime networks to traffic drugs and launder money.
Cocaine imported from South America via the Netherlands was the main focus of the investigation.
Most of the arrests were made there in 2021. The others were made earlier this month, between 8-19 November, during coordinated raids across the other six countries, Europol said.
A video posted to the agency’s YouTube page showed teams of investigators and sniffer dogs searching homes filled with luxury cars, although it is unclear if any assets were seized during the arrests.
The British man suspected of heading the “super cartel” had fled to Dubai after earlier avoiding arrest in Spain, the country’s Guardia Civil said in a statement.
He allegedly continued to lead the cartel from the UAE.
Another “big fish” Dutch suspect, with alleged links to high-profile Dutch crime boss Ridouan Taghi, was also detained, the AFP reports.
Dutch prosecutors said they would request the extradition of the suspects from the UAE. The suspects are facing large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
In early November, police in Spain conducted a series of raids that resulted in the discovery of the largest haul of cannabis ever found.
The packaged marijuana found was equivalent to approximately 1.1 million plants.