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August 22, 202316:42
‘Balkan Cartel’ Members Busted as 700kg of Cocaine Seized in Spain
Spain seized 700 kilograms of South American cocaine being transported to the Canary Islands, arresting three people including a Croat and a Serb suspected of coordinating the crime, said EU law enforcement agency Europol.

Officers from the Spanish Civil Guard arrest four individuals in connection to the seizure on Tuesday. Photo: EUROPOL

Europol and the Spanish Guardia Civil along with law enforcement authorities from Croatia, Italy and Serbia, have seized 700 kilograms of cocaine and arrested suspected members of the so-called ‘Balkan Cartel’.

The suspects arrested after an operation lasting several months included a Croat and a Serb as well as an Italian, Europol said. The criminal organisation was allegedly smuggling large quantities of cocaine from South America to the EU via the Canary Islands.

“The investigation identified a significant threat; criminal organisations’ increasing ability to collaborate closely and deploy members to different locations for longer periods to enable large-scale drug trafficking,” Europol said in a statement.

“The international cooperation of law enforcement authorities across the EU was therefore crucial for intercepting the suspects and halting their criminal activities,” it added.

The investigation started in March last year focused on a Polish-flagged vessel with a temporary base in the Canary Islands, which was suspected of being used for the transportation of cocaine. Since then, law enforcement authorities have monitored the activities of the crew.

The Italian national who was arrested is suspected of being linked to the Italian ´Ndrangheta, an organised crime syndicate, and the Croatian national was linked to the so-called Balkan Cartel, according to Europol.

“Although they had no professional activity, both were enjoying high living standards while maintaining the vessel in excellent condition,” Europol stated.

In July, the Spanish authorities detected their vessel making an unusual trip to an isolated point deeper in the Atlantic Ocean. The vessel departed from the location on August 2 and three days later Spanish authorities raided the ship and found 700 kilograms of cocaine on it.

Meanwhile, officers in Spain arrested the Croatian suspect and another person, a Serbian national, both suspected of coordinating the drug-smuggling operation from land.

During the arrests, the suspects were found in possession of the phones from which they coordinated the crime, Europol alleged.

In the last several years, Europol had conducted several operations against the so-called ‘Balkan Cartel, including an operation in May that netted 37 people led by a Bosnian national who were allegedly involved in the large-scale trafficking of drugs and firearms across Europe. 

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