Police have smashed a huge drugs "super-cartel" that controlled around a third of Europe's cocaine trade, arresting 49 people in various countries, including six chief suspects in Dubai, Europol said on Monday.
The international operation codenamed "Desert Light" seized 30 tonnes of the drug and led to arrests in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain, the European Union's police agency said in a statement.
The crackdown in Dubai netted a "big fish" from the Netherlands, who reportedly had links to alleged Dutch crime boss Ridouan Taghi, himself seized in the Gulf emirate in 2019.
"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," Europol said.
"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."
The Dutch suspect had allegedly formed an alliance in Dubai with the leaders of Irish and Italian drug gangs who had also been arrested, Dutch public broadcaster NOS said.
A video released by Europol showed agents including some from the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Spanish Guardia Civil arresting suspects and seizing luxury cars and hidden stashes of cash.
'Extremely big fish'
Europol said Dubai had arrested two "high-value" suspects who are linked to France, two connected to the Netherlands and another two linked to Spain.
Ten people were arrested in Belgium, six in France and 13 in Spain. Another 14 people were arrested in 2021 in the Netherlands as part of the same operation, the Hague-based organisation said.
"One of the Dutch suspects is an extremely big fish," a Europol source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"He was just as important as Taghi, if not more important."
The arrests from November 8 to 19 were the latest in a series around Europe that followed a police hack of sophisticated encrypted telephones used by organised crime networks last year, Europol said.
Police secretly used the SKY ECC phone platform to listen in on what were supposed to be secure communications between drug traffickers.
Most of the drugs targeted cocaine coming from South America through the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, although some had passed through South Africa.
Dutch prosecutors said they would request the extradition of the two suspects from the United Arab Emirates.
One was a 40-year-old dual Dutch-Bosnian national, suspected of smuggling 1.8 tonnes of cocaine via the German port of Hamburg in 2020, and of preparing to import 8 tonnes of raw materials for producing amphetamines via Antwerp in Belgium.
Dutch media named him as Edin G. and said he was wanted by the US DEA for his links to alleged drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi.
Moroccan-born Taghi was arrested in Dubai in 2019. He is now on trial in the Netherlands on charges of murder and running a huge Amsterdam-based cocaine smuggling group.
'Serious criminal offences'
The other suspect is a 37-year-old dual Dutch and Moroccan national, whom Dutch media named as Zouhair B. and said had allegedly smuggled three tonnes of cocaine to the Netherlands worth more than 200 million euros.
He was also suspected of money laundering and firearms possession.
The investigation into both men was launched on the basis of decrypted messages from SKY phones, the Dutch prosecution service said in a statement.
"These are serious criminal offences pertaining to international drug trafficking, mainly from South America via the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam," it said.
Spain's Guardia Civil said a total of 13 people had been arrested in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga on November 8 after 698 kilograms (1,539 pounds) of cocaine were found in a container in the port of Valencia.
The head of the smuggling operation, a British national, fled to Dubai after an attempted arrest in Spain and was continuing to direct operations from there, it said in a statement.
The cocaine was imported from Panama in central America and his supplier, a Panamanian, also lived in Dubai, it said.
Actress Nausheen Masud passes away
Second phase of Gaza war could be difficult: Israel
Gold price falls by Rs1300 per tola in Pakistan
LHC bars police from harassing citizens for license
ICC Test Ranking released
Jail trial of Imran, Fawad in contempt of ECP case approved
Winter activity and political turmoil!
Government, opposition and public!
Present regime and dengue!
The repetition of history and the hidden sciences!
Whispers, rumors and rulers' narrative!
Bail Approved | Breaking News | GNN
Election Commision Surprised Imran Khan #gnn #imrankhan #electioncommision #adialajail #news
Decision by Supreme Court #gnn #supremecourt #news #breaking #update #viral #latest #video
Big News About Nawaz Sharif And Asif Zardari Meeting | Breaking News | GNN
Big Blow to Imran Khan from Election Commission | News Headlines | 02 PM | 06 December 2023 | GNN
PTI Female Workers Case | Court Big Orders | Breaking News | GNN
Pakistan 6 hours ago
No more free electricity for power companies officers
Pakistan 2 days ago
Dr. Fowzia meets sister Aafia Siddiqui in US jail
Business 2 days ago
Gas crisis: All industries shut down in Karachi
Business 2 days ago
Lahore-Guangzhou flight operation from Dec 20
Entertainment 2 days ago
Kiran Ashfaq ties knot with political leader for second time
Business 5 hours ago
ADB approves more than $750 million for Pakistan
World 4 hours ago
17 killed, 12 injured as bus falls into ditch in Philippines
Pakistan 4 hours ago
Nation remembers Major Shabbir Sharif on martyrdom anniversary