Europol arrests Western Balkan's biggest drug lords

Europol has arrested Western Balkan's biggest drug lords after an investigation into encrypted phones.

Coordinated raids were carried out in Serbia and in the Netherlands to target a cartel's leadership and distribution infrastructure, Europol said in a statement on Thursday.

"A total of 23 individuals have been arrested, including the 3 leaders of this criminal organisation, considered as High-Value Targets by Europol," said the statement.

Seven other members of this criminal organisation were already arrested in Belgium in 2021. Two individuals were previously arrested for other offences in Serbia and Peru. Another suspect was arrested in the Netherlands on May 8.

Serbian authorities seized assets to the tune of $5.44 million.

Moreover, during the operations, 15 high-end cars and luxury jewellery and watches were seized in 35 house searches.

'Balkan Cartel'

Also, police units captured weapons and explosives, including two sniper rifles, three automatic rifles, guns, silencers, 24 detonator capsules and five devices for remote initiation of detonators, 13 packages of plastic explosives and several hundred pieces of ammunition.

The criminal organisation, Europol says, is behind multi-tonne cocaine shipments that came directly from Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, or by transiting in West Africa.

Many countries, including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, coordinated together with Serbia in what Europol said is the Operational Taskforce 'Balkan Cartel', which helped Belgrade to identify the key targets.

"With over 50 countries with a permanent representation at Europol – including all the Balkan countries, Europol is the place where such a cooperation can take place," Europol’s Deputy Executive Director Jean-Philippe Lecouffe.

"It is by constant sharing of intelligence and a proper coordination that we can disrupt criminal networks, dismantle their operations and make our communities safer."

In 2020, at least 7 tonnes of cocaine were seized in European ports, including 700 kilograms in the Netherlands, 1.2 tonnes in Belgium and 5 tonnes in the Dutch Antilles.


Source: TRT World