Drug kingpins joined forces to form ‘super cartel,’ controlling about one third of cocaine trade in Europe
By Stephen Sorace
Law enforcement across Europe teamed up to bust a “super cartel” of drug traffickers who control about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe, European authorities said Monday.
The series of raids took place between Nov. 8 and 19 in six countries across Europe and the United Arab Emirates, resulting in 49 arrests, Europol said.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Desert Light,” targeted the cartel’s “command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe,” according to the agency.
“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive and over 30 tons of drugs were seized by law enforcement over the course of the investigations,” Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communications to organize drugs shipments.
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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organization, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.
In 2021, authorities detained 14 suspects in the Netherlands, 13 in Spain, six in France, and ten in Belgium. Six additional “high-value targets,” according to Europol, were detained in Dubai.
In Europe, record amounts of cocaine are being found. It is more readily available than ever on the continent, has a very high purity level, and is extremely inexpensive.
In the region, more than 214 tons of cocaine were found in 2020, an increase of 6% from the year before. According to experts with the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, that number may rise to 300 metric tons (330 tons) in 2022.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.