A drugs (cocaine) “super cartel” controlling a third of Europe’s cocaine trade has been busted after police conducted a series of coordinated raids across Europe and Dubai (the United Arab Emirate).

During the process a total of 49 arrests have so far been made, including chief suspects in Dubai, Europol said on Monday, as their command-control-centre and logistical infrastructure was targeted.

These high value targets (drug lords) had come together to form what was known as a ‘super cartel’ which controlled around one third of the cocaine trade in Europe.

It is a culmination of parallel investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol during the past two years into the activities of this prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering.

The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive and over 30 tonnes of drugs were seized by law enforcement over the course of the probe.

In the framework of intelligence activities underway with its operational counterparts, Europol developed reliable intelligence concerning a drug trafficking cartel flooding Europe with cocaine. The main targets, who used encrypted communications to organise the shipments, were identified in the participating authorities.

The crackdown — which involved one “extremely big fish” from the Netherlands and based in Dubai– largely targeted cocaine coming from South America through the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Europol said Dubai had arrested two “high-value” suspects who are linked to France, two connected to the Netherlands and another two linked to Spain.

Ten people were arrested in Belgium, six in France and 13 in Spain. Another 14 people were arrested in 2021 in the Netherlands as part of the same operation, the Hague-based organisation said.

Police took down the SKY ECC phone platform last year, after secretly using it for a long period to listen in on what were supposed to be secure communications between drug traffickers.

Dutch prosecutors said they would request the extradition of the suspects from the United Arab Emirates.

One of the suspects was a 37-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality, who was held for allegedly importing thousands of kilogrammes of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021.

“These are serious criminal offences pertaining to international drug trafficking, mainly from South America via the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam,” the Dutch public prosecution service said in a statement.

The other was a 40-year-old dual Dutch-Bosnian national, it said.

The Dutch suspects were allegedly linked to Ridouan Taghi who was arrested in Dubai in 2019 and is now on trial in the Netherlands, the source said.

He is accused of running a huge Amsterdam-based cocaine smuggling group and faces charges including murder.

Spain’s Guardia Civil said a total of 13 people had been arrested in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga on November 8 after 698 kilogrammes (1,539 pounds) of cocaine were found in a container in the port of Valencia.

The head of the smuggling operation, a British national, fled to Dubai after an attempted arrest in Spain and was continuing to direct operations from there, it said in a statement.

The cocaine was imported from Panama in central America and his supplier, a Panamanian, also lived in Dubai, it said.


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