Two Massive Joint Operations Net Over 700 Suspected Gang Members

In two massive operations that spanned three continents, authorities in North America, Europe and Brazil cracked down on transnational organized crime groups and drug traffickers, arresting nearly 750 suspects.  

Nearly $15 million were seized by authorities during the raids along with 70 luxury vehicles and 37 aircrafts. (Source: Europol)Nearly $15 million were seized by authorities during the raids in Europe and Brazil along with 70 luxury vehicles and 37 aircrafts. (Photo: EUROPOL, License)In one operation U.S. authorities joined with their counterparts in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to target members of the MS-13 and 18th street gangs which have plagued streets in both the USA and Central America. More than 700 alleged members of the gangs were arrested, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday. 

“Prosecutors in El Salvador filed criminal charges against 1,152 members of organized crime groups in the country, primarily MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs,” said the DoJ. 

“Within hours, the National Civil Police had captured 572 of the defendants for charges involving terrorism, murder, extortion, kidnapping, vehicle theft, robbery, conspiracy, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, weapons violations, human trafficking and human smuggling,” it added.

Authorities in Honduras and Guatemala also arrested dozens of suspects and seized assets worth thousands of dollars. 

MS-13 has been a target of the Trump administration since the U.S. president took office in 2016. Trump has often tried to highlight the group's violence to support his anti-immigration policy. He issued in February an executive order, requesting authorities to dismantle and eradicate such criminal organizations.

“Pursuant to that order, the U.S. Department of Justice has made dismantling transnational human smuggling networks and gangs, including MS-13, a top priority,” the statement said.

The same day, Europol revealed that an operation involving more than a thousand police officers in Portugal, Belgium, Brazil, Spain, Romania and the United Arab Emirates carried out nearly 180 house raids and arrested 45 suspected members of a large and organized drug ring which specialized in smuggling cocaine from Brazil into Europe. 

“The investigation uncovered that this drug trafficking network was responsible for the annual importation of at least 45 tonnes of cocaine into the main European seaports, with profits exceeding €100 million (US$119 million) over the course of six months,” Europol said.

Nearly $15 million were seized by authorities during the raids along with 70 luxury vehicles and 37 aircrafts.