Europe’s largest cocaine distribution network busted

Europe’s largest cocaine distribution network busted
A collection of drugs that were seized in Spain in 2021. Credit: Spanish National Police

An international alliance of police forces rounded up what is thought to be Europe’s largest gang of cocaine smugglers.

Around 4,010 kilograms of cocaine was seized as part of the drug bust while 61 people were arrested in March, 13 of whom were arrested in Spain and most others in Slovenia, and who were aiming to carry out a drug trafficking operation from South America to Europe, according to a press release from the Spanish National Police.

The years-long operation also resulted in the seizure of 2,569 kilograms of marijuana, 173 kilograms of hashish, 12.5 kilograms of heroin, 30 litres of amphetamine, and more than €6 million in cash, as well as a Montenegro police service identification badge, among other things.

The operation was carried out by the Spanish National Police together with the police authorities of Germany, Colombia, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and the United States, and was coordinated by Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.

Europol originally launched an operation to dismantle the criminal group in 2018, when a sailing boat carrying two Croatian nationals, one American national and 1.4 tonnes of cocaine was seized, which first led to the team identifying several members of the Balkan cartel, which the European authorities considered to be one of the most important criminal organisations operating on the bloc.

However, taking the operation further posed a challenge due to the high mobility of the members of the Balkan cartel and their large financial resources, which resulted in a more permanent coordination of all the police forces involved being required.

The international cooperation of police forces managed to, between 2019 and 2021, follow the group, which had ties to other major crime organisations in Europe, and intervened during a first maritime operation to smuggle large quantities of drugs to Europe.

Police finally managed to catch the group in Spain, where they were meeting to manage the preparations before the final order of cocaine arrived, which in turn resulted in the dismantling of one of the most active branches of the Balkan Cartel.

The Brussels Times

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