Cocaine 'Super Cartel' Is Busted in Europe

Ring controlled about one-third of the trade on the continent
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 28, 2022 11:35 AM CST
Cocaine 'Super Cartel' Is Busted in Europe
Packages of siezed cocaine are stacked in Antwerp, Belgium, in this file photo.   (Federal Judicial Police Antwerp via AP)

Law enforcement authorities in six different countries have joined forces to take down a "super cartel" of drug traffickers who controlled about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe, Europol said on Monday. The European Union crime agency said 49 suspects have been arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the United Arab Emirates taking place between Nov. 8 and Nov. 19, per the AP. The agency said police forces involved in "Operation Desert Light" targeted both the "command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe."

More than 33 tons of drugs were seized during the investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UAE with the support of Europol. The US Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organization, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said. "The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects' control and command was massive," Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communications to organize drug shipments. The Netherlands was the country where most of the arrests were made, with 14 suspects arrested in 2021. Europol said six "high-value targets" were arrested in Dubai.

Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe. Its availability on the continent has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices. More than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in the region in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 330 tons in 2022. (Belgium is seizing so much of the drug that its incinerators can't keep up.)

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