Drug Cartel responsible for 1/3 of all cocaine trade in Europe has been taken down

(Featured image provided by REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo)

Recently, law enforcement authorities from six different countries joined together to take down a major cartel in Europe which is allegedly responsible for a third of all cocaine trading in the continent.

Europol, the European Union’s (EU) government crime agency, said on Monday that they had made a total of 49 arrests in the investigation after a series of raids took place across Europe and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The raids were a part of “Operation Desert Light,” which the agency said targeted the cartel’s “command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe.” The raids took place from November 8 through 19, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also aided in the takedown of the cartel. Police from the United Kingdom and Bulgaria also took part.

About a total of over 33 tons (30 metric tons) were confiscated during the raids, which is a huge amount. “The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive,” said Europol. Ever since 2020, the amount of cocaine that has been smuggled into Europe has broken records from previous years. In 2020, about 214 tons of cocaine, a 6% increase from the previous year. Authorities from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that the amount of cocaine seized by the end of 2022 could potentially break over 330 tons. 

Out of the 49 total arrests, ten arrests were made in Belgium, six in France, 13 in Spain, and six in the UAE. However, the majority of the arrests were made in the Netherlands, with about 14 total being made there. According to a Europol source, one of the suspects arrested in the country was an “extremely big fish,” and another two Dutch suspects were part of those arrested in Dubai. One of the Dutch suspects arrested in Dubai is also being prosecuted for laundering large amounts of money as well as illegal possession of firearms. The other suspect is suspected of importing cocaine and other materials into Europe for the production of amphetamines based on intercepted Skype messages,

Additionally, the Dutch suspects are reportedly connected to Ridouan Taghi, a criminal who ran an Amsterdam-based cocaine-smuggling group before his arrest in 2019. Taghi has also been connected to the murder of Dutch investigative reporter Peter R de Vries, which he denies. 

“This coordinated clampdown sends a strong message to criminals seeking sanctuary from law enforcement,” Europol said in a statement.

Sources:

https://apnews.com/article/europe-business-crime-arrests-global-trade-4623ce08af01b4b4a18fa4b3efc5afca

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/28/30-tonnes-of-cocaine-seized-in-raids-against-european-super-cartel

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