NCA helps in arrest of ‘key player’ in European drugs ‘super cartel’

The National Crime Agency (NCA) played a significant part in the arrest of a British man suspected of being a “key player” in a drugs cartel believed to control up to a third of Europe’s cocaine trade.

Nov 29, 2022
By Paul Jacques

He was one of 49 people arrested in a Europol-led operation across Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to take down the “super cartel”.

More than 30 tonnes of drugs were seized by law enforcement agencies during raids in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UAE with help from the US Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, over the space of 11 days in this month.

Europol said at least six “high-value targets” were arrested in Dubai during the operation, known as ‘Desert Light’.

The NCA said its officers worked closely with Spanish police in the arrest of the British man alleged to be “a key part of the network”.

“Living on the Costa del Sol, he is suspected of being the group’s money launderer, setting up a construction business to conceal the criminal origin of the profits,” said the NCA.

“We helped our Spanish counterparts to target a British man who was one of the crime group’s key players.

“We will continue to offer any support we can to assist the Spanish Guardia Civil investigation.

“This is yet another example of the NCA’s international reach and close cooperation with overseas law enforcement agencies to help combat the organised criminals behind the trade in Class A drugs.”

Europol said between November 8 and 19, coordinated raids were carried out across Europe and the UAE, targeting both the command-and-control centre and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe.

“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,” it added.

“These arrests are the culmination of parallel investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol into the activities of this prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering.

“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive and over 30 tonnes of drugs were seized by law enforcement over the course of the investigations.”

“This coordinated clampdown sends a strong message to criminals seeking sanctuary from law enforcement that there is no safe haven for drug lords.”

In addition to the six arrests in Dubai, 13 arrests were made in Spain, six in France, ten in Belgium, and 14 in the Netherlands.

Europol said in the “framework of intelligence activities underway with its operational counterparts”, it developed reliable intelligence concerning a drug trafficking cartel flooding Europe with cocaine.

“The main targets, who used encrypted communications to organise the shipments, were identified in the participating authorities,” it said.

“Europol has since then hosted multiple coordination meetings in the past two years in order to bring together the different countries working on the same targets to establish a joint strategy to bring down the whole network.”

More than ten operational meetings took place at Europol in this period, the EU crime agency said.

In addition, Europol said it has been provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators, adding: “ During the action, Europol facilitated the real-time coordination among all the partners involved, ensuring swift tactical decisions to adjust the strategy as required.”

Eurojust provided cross-border judicial support to the French and Belgian authorities regarding seven arrests in both countries and organised four coordination meetings to prepare for these actions.

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