Cocaine ‘super-cartel’ busted in Europe and Dubai

Europol said more than 30 tonnes of cocaine were seized in the operation – EUROPOL/AFP

The international operation codenamed “Desert Light” seized more than 30 tonnes of the white powder and led to arrests in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain, the European Union’s police agency said.

The crackdown in Dubai netted a “big fish” from the Netherlands, who reportedly had links to alleged Dutch crime boss Ridouan Taghi, who was himself seized in the Gulf emirate in 2019.

“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.

“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive”.

The Dutch suspect had allegedly formed an alliance in Dubai with the leaders of Irish and Italian drug gangs who were also arrested, Dutch public broadcaster NOS said.

A video released by Europol showed agents including some from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Spanish Guardia Civil arresting suspects and seizing luxury cars and hidden stashes of cash.

‘Extremely big fish’

Dubai arrested two “high-value” suspects who are linked to France, two connected to the Netherlands and another two linked to Spain, Europol said.

Europol spokesman Jan Op Gen Oorth said it was a “textbook example of an international operation into the most dangerous organised crime groups”.

“The Emirates were a safe haven for criminals… but this time is over,” he told AFP in The Hague. “We have excellent cooperation with Dubai police so criminals have to look for some different spot to hide.”

The seizure of 30 tonnes of cocaine in one fell swoop would have a “big impact”, he said. European authorities had seized 240 tonnes in total across the continent in 2021, he added.

Ten people were arrested in Belgium, six in France and 13 in Spain during the operation from November 8 to 19. Another 14 people were arrested last year in the Netherlands as part of the same operation, Europol said.

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