16th July 2024
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Arrests in Marbella and Canary Islands after Europol bust cocaine gang

Europol, the Hague-based European police force, said on Thursday that a crime ring smuggling drugs into Europe had collapsed as the result of an investigation involving 40 arrests and the seizure of eight tonnes of cocaine.

Europol said in a statement that the entire cartel, whose leaders were based in Turkey and Dubai, had been dealt a major blow after a final set of arrests during Wednesday.

The vast three-year-long operation involved police forces from a dozen countries and ranged from Brazil to Spain via Turkey.

According to Europol, the final phase of the operation began with the discovery in August 2023 by the Spanish Guardia Civil of 700 kilos of cocaine in a boat off the Canary Islands, crewed by Croatian and Italian citizens.

After exchanging their findings with other police forces, the investigators found links with previous seizures which led to the identification of the masterminds.

In all, 40 people were arrested in six countries, including two top Croatian members of the network, who were arrested at the end of 2023 in Istanbul, police said. The last four arrests took place on Wednesday in Spain, according to Europol – including a 40-year-old man arerested at dawn at his home near Marbella, a resort popular with drug traffickers.

The smugglers shipped cocaine from South America to logistical hubs in West Africa and the Canary Islands. The drugs were then sent on to centres in Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy and Spain for distribution across Europe.

Many of the drug network’s assets, with a total value of several tens of millions of euros, had been seized or frozen, Europol added.

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