Police bust major ring smuggling cocaine to Europe

By AFP
June 14, 2024
European police arresting a drug smuggler in this image. — Europol/file

MADRID: Europol said on Thursday that a crime ring smuggling drugs into Europe had collapsed as the result of an investigation involving 40 arrests and the seizure of eight tonnes of cocaine.

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The Hague-based European police force said the entire cartel, whose leaders were based in Turkiye and Dubai, had been dealt a major blow after a final set of arrests on Wednesday.

The vast three-year-long operation involved police forces from a dozen countries and ranged from Brazil to Spain via Turkey. According to Europol, the final phase of the operation began with the discovery in August 2023 by the Spanish Guardia Civil of 700 kilos of cocaine in a boat off the Canary Islands, crewed by Croat and Italian citizens.

After exchanging their findings with other police forces, the investigators found links with previous seizures which led to the identification of the masterminds. In all, 40 people were arrested in six countries, including two top Croat members of the network, who were arrested at the end of 2023 in Istanbul, police said.

The last four arrests took place on Wednesday in Spain, according to Europol. In one operation witnessed by an AFP journalist, heavily armed members of Spain´s Guardia Civil arrested a 40-year-old man at dawn at his home near Marbella, a seaside resort popular with drug traffickers.

The smugglers shipped cocaine from South America to logistical hubs in west Africa and the Canary Islands. The drugs were then sent on to centres in Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy and Spain for distribution across Europe.

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