Balkan Cartel’s European “cocaine pipeline” dismantled
Law enforcement in eight countries destroyed a drug trafficking organization run by Balkan gangsters and Colombian cocaine suppliers who laundered money through football transfers.
Europol, which coordinated the efforts of eight national police forces in a three-year investigation, described the network as the largest cocaine smuggling organization in Europe.
A total of 61 arrests were made and four tonnes of cocaine seized, as well as 2.7 tonnes of cannabis, smaller amounts of heroin and amphetamines, firearms and â¬ 6 million in cash. “He was flooding Europe with cocaine,” a Europol statement said.
The Balkan drug cartel was made up largely of individuals from Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro and included paramilitary elements and a serving police officer.
It was dismantled in Spain in March, with 13 arrests made as a shipment of cocaine was received near the Catalan coast.
Europol said those arrested included two criminal âhubsâ.
In Colombia, the gang has been implicated in transfers of football players between clubs to launder their illicit drug earnings.
In a follow-up operation in May, 48 other members of the organized criminal group were indicted in Slovenia for their involvement in the distribution of cocaine and marijuana throughout Europe.
Europol described the cooperation between investigators from Spain, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States and Colombia as “unprecedented”. The delay in releasing the information was due to the need to require approval from many different agencies, he explained.
Spanish police first raided a sailboat with more than a ton of cocaine in 2018, but were unable to link the cargo to suspected Balkan cartel leaders.
In 2019, Spanish police identified a suspected Montenegrin cartel leader based in Malaga, but who attended meetings in several cities in Spain, as well as other countries in Europe and Latin America.
According to Spanish police, the ultimate leader of the organization is based in Dubai.
“The most notable characteristic of the group was its significant economic power and lack of rooting, which allowed all of its members to settle in different countries, take trips to hold meetings and enjoy a level. extraordinarily high life “, said the Spanish national police.