Police in Europe Pounce on Balkan Drug Cartel
Law enforcement agencies from eight countries in Europe arrested 61 suspects and seized more than four tons of cocaine, as well as money and luxury vehicles during last week’s crackdown on a Balkan drug cartel suspected of running the continent’s largest cocaine trafficking network.
“This highly mobile criminal organization had branches active in several European countries and was composed mainly of criminals from Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia,” read the statement.
Spanish National Police (Policia Nacional) said that the investigation, which started in 2018, has been focused on a criminal organization that was maintaining strong connections with other criminal groups in the region, including Montenegro’s Kavač clan. The clan is suspected of have financed the operations of the gang through marijuana trafficking.
The investigation, according to Policia Nacional, targeted a Montenegrin who represented a powerful criminal organization that operated from the eastern countries, or the so-called Balkan cartel.
This cartel posed a significant threat to the security of the eastern countries, as European authorities regarded it as one of the most important criminal organizations operating in Europe, according to the Spanish police’s statement.
It added that the Balkan cartel even included members of paramilitary groups, and was involved mainly in drug trafficking, but also in “robberies, money laundering, extortion and kidnapping.”
The gang even used sports for its criminal activities, laundering some of its profit from drug trafficking through transfers of soccer players in Colombia.
In July 2020 Europol set up an Operational Taskforce, bringing together the involved countries — Spain, Croatia, Serbia, Germany, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States and Colombia — to coordinate a joint strategy to bring down the whole network. Europol itself has provided “continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators.”
Earlier this year, in March, Spanish investigators received reliable information that this cartel was planning a “major cocaine importation from South America into Europe,” and that special surveillance measures were introduced as the suspects moved back and forth between Spain and South America, according to Europol.
“This was too good of an opportunity for law enforcement to miss: in the early hours of 10 March 2021, officers from the Spanish National Police carried out simultaneous raids in the cities of Tarragona, Barcelona, Gerona and Valencia, arresting 13 individuals, including the two kingpins and a police officer who collaborated with the criminal organization,” read the statement.
At the same time, the Spanish authorities eliminated the cartel’s alternative money streams, including marijuana production and trafficking, as well as the selling of luxury cars.