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Europol bust cocaine gang with arrests in Marbella and Canary Islands

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Europol bust cocaine gang with arrests in Marbella and Canary Islands
Members of Spanish Guardia Civil, supported by Europol, arrest a man during an operation against drug trafficking in Mijas, near Malaga, on June 12, 2024. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Europol said 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.

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The Hague-based European police force said the entire cartel, whose leaders were based in Turkey and Dubai, had been dealt a major blow after a final set of arrests Wednesday.

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

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According to Europol, the final phase of the operation began with the discovery in August 2023 by the Spanish Guardia Civil of 700 kilos (1,540 pounds)of cocaine in a boat off the Canary Islands, crewed by Croat 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 Croat 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.

In one operation witnessed by an AFP journalist, heavily armed members of Spain's Guardia Civil arrested a 40-year-old man at dawn at his home near Marbella, a seaside 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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