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A logo of Europol, European Union's law enforcement agency, is pictured at its headquarters building on June 24, 2020 in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo by Yuriko Nakao, Getty Images 

Authorities Dismantle “Super Cartel” Operation in Europe

Take five of the largest African elephants and put them in a room: That’s about the weight of dope a multi-year Europol operation seized as it dismantled what it described as a “super cartel” that supplied approximately one-third of the Europe’s illicit cocaine.

The recent action, which took place earlier this month, involved “coordinated raids...carried out across Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), targeting both the command-and-control centre and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe.”


Called Operation Desert Light, the actions involved law enforcement coordination from Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Including many arrests last year that were part of the same operation, authorities arrested total of 49 suspects, including six that Europol classified as high-value targets, and seized more than 30,000 kilos of cocaine.

The six high-value targets were arrested in the UAE, where the cartel operated a command and control center for its operations. Europol and the Emirates formalized cooperation in September this year, placing a liaison officer from the UAE in Europol’s consortium of 250 liaison officers representing law enforcement and intelligence operations from more than 50 countries. “This unique approach to international police cooperation has positioned Europol as the place where crucial intelligence emerges with law enforcement from countries across the world working side by side to fight the most dangerous criminal networks,” the Europol statement concluded.

One of the breakthroughs in the case came when “investigators cracked the encrypted messaging service Sky ECC,” the Associated Press reported. The BBC reported that “the British man suspected of heading the ‘super cartel’ had fled to Dubai after earlier avoiding arrest in Spain.” The man allegedly continued to lead the operation from UAE.

The scale of the operation even led Europol to create what is best described as a promotional video (now private), complete with photos and videos of lavish cars and estates, stacks of cash and passports, and drug-sniffing dogs performing their duty, all with dramatic, if a bit generic-sounding, background music.

Cocaine use has been on the rise in Europe. “It’s availability on the continent has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices,” the AP reported.