SPANISH police have been at the heart of a massive international operation that has busted what they describe as the biggest cocaine distribution network in Europe.
They joined forces with seven other countries in the year-long investigation into a Balkan drugs cartel that was ‘flooding Europe with cocaine’.
A series of police raids in Spain and Slovenia have uncovered more than four tonnes of cocaine and €12.6 million in cash.
Now criminal reports have been filed against 61 suspects with 13 arrests made in Spain and 10 in Slovenia.
An Operational Taskforce had been set up by Europol in July 2020 to bring together all the involved countries and coordinate a joint strategy to bring down the network.
Spanish investigators discovered that the cartel was preparing a major cocaine shipment from South America into Europe in spring of this year.
The suspects were watched as they moved back and forth between Spain and South America to finalise the details of the shipment, which weighed in at more than 1,25 tonnes.
The investigation gathered pace in March of this year when the leaders of this cartel travelled to Spain to prepare for the arrival of the cocaine. One of them – a Montenegrin – had a home on the Costa del Sol.
These two individuals – considered as High-Value Targets by Europol, had until then avoided attending meetings in person in order to evade law enforcement.
This was too good of an opportunity for law enforcement to miss: in the early hours of March 10, officers from the Policia Nacional carried out simultaneous raids in Valencia, Tarragona, Barcelona and Gerona, making 13 arrests including the two kingpins and a crooked police officer.
The Spanish investigators also dismantled the cartel’s alternative revenue streams, such as the production and trafficking of marijuana and the sale of luxury vehicles.
In a follow-up action in May 2021 some 48 other members of the organised criminal group were charged in Slovenia by the National Police (Policija) for their involvement in the distribution of the cocaine and marijuana throughout Europe. A total of 10 of these suspects are now under arrest.
In total police seized more than four tonnes of cocaine, two-and-a-half tonnes of marijuana, 173 kilograms of hashish, €12.6 million in cash, nine high-end vehicles, five motorbikes and a firearm with 300 cartridges.
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