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EUROPOL destroys the Balkan drug cartel

EUROPOL, Spain's Guardia Civil, Croatia's drug control unit and Brazilian police teamed up to bust Balkan drug cartel / Photo: Getty

EUROPOL, Spain's Guardia Civil, Croatia's drug control unit and Brazilian police teamed up to bust Balkan drug cartel / Photo: Getty

At least 40 people have been arrested and eight tonnes of cocaine seized as a result of a four-year international police operation targeting a criminal network that trafficked large quantities of the drug from South America to Europe via West Africa and the Canary Islands. 

The multi-year investigation, which was led by the Spanish Guardia Civil force and coordinated by the EUROPOL operational task force, revealed that a Balkan cartel was using logistics centers in West Africa and the Canaries to smuggle cocaine from Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador into EU countries. "The Guardian" reported on Thursday.

Once the drug reached Europe, it was distributed across the continent using treatment centers in Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In a statement issued on Thursday, EUROPOL said that the leaders of this cartel have been temporarily located in Turkey and Dubai.

"From there, they operated the control and command centers of the criminal network. Investigations into this network identified a significant threat – the ability of criminal actors to collaborate closely on a long-term basis across countries to facilitate their large-scale drug trafficking operations wide", says the EUROPOL statement. 

EUROPOL said the cooperation between nine national forces – Brazil, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates – had proved crucial in capturing the network.