Police arrested at least 49 people in several countries in the huge international operation, seizing 30 tonnes of drugs.
According to Europol, police have dismantled a huge drug “supercartel” that controlled a third of the cocaine trade in Europe, arresting 49 people in several countries, including six main suspects in Dubai.
The huge international operation seized 30 tonnes of drugs and led to arrests in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain, the European Union’s police agency said in a statement on Monday.
The crackdown, which involved an “extremely big fish” from the Netherlands based in Dubai, largely routed cocaine from South America through the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp.
“Drug traffickers, considered high-value targets by Europol, had banded together to form what was known as a ‘supercartel’ that controlled around a third of Europe’s cocaine trade,” Europol said .
“The scale of cocaine being imported into Europe under the control and command of the suspects was massive and law enforcement seized more than 30 tonnes of the drug over the course of the investigations.”
“High Value” Suspects.
Europol said Dubai had arrested two “high value” suspects linked to France, two linked 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 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 took down the SKY ECC phone platform last year after secretly using it to listen in on what were supposed to be secure communications between drug traffickers.
Dutch prosecutors said they would seek the extradition of the suspects from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
One of the suspects is a 37-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality who was arrested for allegedly importing thousands of kilos of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021.
“These are serious criminal offenses related to international drug trafficking, mainly from South America via the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam,” Dutch prosecutors said in a statement.
“very big fish”
The other was a 40-year-old Bosnian-Dutch man, he said.
“One of the Dutch suspects is an extremely big fish,” a Europol source told AFP news agency 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 large cocaine smuggling ring based in Amsterdam and faces charges including murder.
The Spanish Civil Guard reported that a total of 13 people had been arrested in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga on November 8 after 698 kilograms (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 continued to run operations from there, it said in a statement.
The cocaine was imported from Panama to Central America and its Panamanian supplier also lived in Dubai, he said.