Police arrested at least 49 people in several countries and seized 30 tons of drugs in the massive international operation.
Police have broken up a huge drugs “super-cartel” that controlled a third of Europe’s cocaine trade and arrested 49 people in different countries, including six prime suspects in Dubai, according to Europol.
The huge international operation seized 30 tons of the drug and led to arrests in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain, the European Union police agency said in a statement on Monday.
The raid – which involved an “extremely large fish” from the Netherlands stationed in Dubai – largely targeted cocaine arriving from South America via the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp.
“The drugpins, considered high-value targets by Europol, had combined to form a so-called ‘super cartel’ that controlled about a third of the cocaine trade in Europe,” Europol said.
“The scale of cocaine imports into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was enormous and over 30 tonnes of drugs were seized by law enforcement in the course of the investigation.”
“High quality” suspects
Europol said Dubai has arrested two “high quality” suspects with ties to France, two with ties to the Netherlands and two others with ties to Spain.
Ten people were arrested in Belgium, six in France and 13 in Spain. Another 14 people were arrested in the Netherlands in 2021 as part of the same operation, the Hague-based organization said.
The arrests were the latest in a series that followed a police hack of sophisticated encrypted phones used by organized crime networks last year, Europol said.
Police shut down the SKY ECC phone platform last year after secretly using it to intercept allegedly secure communications between drug dealers.
Dutch prosecutors said they would seek the suspects’ extradition from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
One of the suspects is a 37-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan citizenship who was held for allegedly importing thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021.
“These are serious crimes related to international drug trafficking, mainly from South America via the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam,” Dutch prosecutors said in a statement.
“Extremely Large Fish”
The other is a 40-year-old Dutch Bosnian citizen, it said.
“One of the Dutch suspects is an extremely big fish,” a Europol source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
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.
Taghi is accused of running a huge Amsterdam-based cocaine smuggling group and faces charges including murder.
Spain’s Civil Guard said on November 8 a total of 13 people were arrested in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga after 698 kilograms (1,539 pounds) of cocaine were found in a container at the port of Valencia.
The head of the smuggling operation, a British citizen, fled to Dubai after an attempt to arrest him in Spain and is continuing the operations from there, a statement said.
The cocaine was imported from Panama in Central America and its Panamanian supplier also lives in Dubai, it said.