- Europe’s crime agency Europol announced a massive drug network bust on Monday.
- The agency said that at least 49 suspects were arrested in 6 countries, with top targets located in Dubai.
- The cartel was responsible for a third of the cocaine trade in Europe, the agency said.
Members of a cartel that trafficked over a third of the cocaine consumed in Europe were arrested in a complex multi-agency operation that involved cracking an encrypted messaging app and locating several high-profile suspects in Dubai.
According to European law enforcement agency Europol, in the first three weeks of November, crime agencies in Spain, the US, France, The Netherlands, the UAE, and elsewhere worked together to track down the syndicate. By the end of the month, some 49 suspects had been arrested and over 30 metric tons of cocaine had been seized.
“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,” Europol said in a news release on Monday.
Overall, through Europol’s “Operation Desert Light,” members of the syndicate were detained in six different countries.
At least 6 of the most sought-after traffickers in the group were arrested in Dubai, the release added. The arrests stretched back to 2021 as investigators tracked down several of the international kingpins via an encrypted messaging app.
The Associated Press reported that several of the traffickers, including a Dutch-Bosnian man, had messages from an encrypted messaging service called Sky ECC intercepted, which led to further arrests in November. The production and seizure of cocaine in Europe is at a record high in 2022, according to the AP.
“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive,” Europol said.
In the release, the agency added that the network of traffickers was also involved in money laundering and amphetamine production on the continent.