Police bring down European cocaine “super cartel”

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European policing agency Europol said on Monday it had helped co-ordinate the takedown of a cartel managed from the United Arab Emirates believed to control up to a third of Europe’s cocaine trade.

The operation to co-ordinate raids was dubbed “Desert Light” and had been planned over a period of two years.

Between 8-19 November, coordinated raids were carried out across Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), targeting both the command-and-control centre and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe. 

A total of 49 suspects have been arrested during the course of this investigation. The drugpins considered as high-value targets by Europol had come together to form what was known as a ‘super cartel’ which controlled around one third of the cocaine trade in Europe. 

These arrests are the culmination of parallel investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol 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 investigations. 

Europol issued the following information regarding the arrests:

  • Spain: 13 arrests + 2 High-Value Targets arrested in Dubai
  • France: 6 arrests + 2 High-Value Targets arrested in Dubai 
  • Belgium: 10 arrests 
  • The Netherlands: 14 arrests in 2021 and 2 High-Value Targets arrested in Dubai

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