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European ‘super cartel’ busted in six countries; 49 arrests, 30 tons of cocaine seized

Law enforcement across Europe teamed up to bust a "super cartel" of drug traffickers who control about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe, European authorities said Monday.

The series of raids took place between Nov. 8 and 19 in six countries across Europe and the United Arab Emirates, resulting in 49 arrests, Europol said. 

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Desert Light," targeted the cartel’s "command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe," according to the agency.

"The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive and over 30 tons of drugs were seized by law enforcement over the course of the investigations," Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communications to organize drugs shipments.

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Authorities arrested 13 suspects in Spain, 6 in France, 10 in Belgium, and 14 in the Netherlands in 2021. Europol said six "high-value targets" were also arrested in Dubai.

Authorities arrested 13 suspects in Spain, 6 in France, 10 in Belgium, and 14 in the Netherlands in 2021. Europol said six "high-value targets" were also arrested in Dubai. (Europol)

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organization, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Desert Light," targeted the cartel’s "command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe," according to the agency.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Desert Light," targeted the cartel’s "command-and-control center and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe," according to the agency. (Europol)

Authorities arrested 13 suspects in Spain, six in France, 10 in Belgium, and 14 in the Netherlands in 2021. Europol said six "high-value targets" were also arrested in Dubai.

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Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe. Its availability on the continent has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices.

The series of raids took place between Nov. 8 and 19 in six countries across Europe and the United Arab Emirates, resulting in 49 arrests, Europol said. 

The series of raids took place between Nov. 8 and 19 in six countries across Europe and the United Arab Emirates, resulting in 49 arrests, Europol said.  (Europol)

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More than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in the region in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 300 metric tons (330 tons) in 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.