Police Seize 700kg of Cocaine and Arrest Balkan Cartel Members
The Spanish Civil Guard and Europol, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies from Croatia, Italy, and Serbia, have confiscated 700 kilograms of cocaine and arrested suspects linked to the so-called "Balkan Cartel".
This operation was reported by Balkan Insight.
Among the suspects arrested after a months-long operation were individuals from Croatia, Serbia, and Italy. The criminal organization was involved in smuggling large quantities of cocaine from South America to the EU through the Canary Islands.
"The investigation revealed a significant threat: the growing capability of criminal organizations to closely cooperate and deploy their members across different locations for extended periods to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking," stated Europol.
International cooperation among EU law enforcement agencies played a "decisive role" in apprehending the suspects and dismantling their "criminal activities", according to Europol.
The investigation, which began in March 2022, focused on a Polish-flagged ship with a temporary base in the Canary Islands, suspected of being used for cocaine transportation. Since then, law enforcement agencies monitored the vessel's activities.
According to Europol, the arrested Italian citizen is suspected of ties to the Italian mafia group 'Ndrangheta, while the Croatian citizen is associated with the so-called "Balkan Cartel".
"Although they had no official income, both maintained a high standard of living, keeping the ship in excellent condition," noted Europol.
In July, Spanish authorities detected the ship during its unusual journey to an isolated point in the Atlantic Ocean. The vessel left this location on August 2nd, and three days later, Spanish authorities raided it, finding 700 kilograms of cocaine on board.
Meanwhile, Spanish law enforcement arrested a suspected Croatian and a Serbian citizen, both accused of coordinating drug smuggling operations on land.
In recent years, Europol has carried out several operations against the so-called "Balkan Cartel". In May, they apprehended 37 individuals, including a Bosnian citizen, involved in large-scale drug and firearm trafficking across Europe.
Investigators managed to uncover that the Bosnian individual continued to direct his gang's criminal activities from his prison cell. From there, it is believed he regularly issued orders and instructions to his subordinates concerning drug and firearm trade.
Following the deactivation of three encrypted communication tools used by criminals - Encrochat, Sky ECC, and ANOM - Europol's investigation revealed the prevalence of Balkan criminals within the global criminal environment.