Europol takes down European 'super cartel' with six arrests in Dubai

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, says UAE keen to develop strong relations to 'combat organised crime'

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A European "super cartel" that controlled a third of the continent's cocaine trade has been disrupted by police, with dozens of arrests in an operation across six countries.

Europol said 49 people had been arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the UAE between November 8-19.

The agency said police forces involved in Operation Desert Light targeted the “command-and-control centre and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe".

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said the Emirates played a key role in combatting transnational money laundering and drug trafficking.

He stressed the UAE was keen to "develop strong relations with various police agencies around the world to combat organised crime everywhere", state news agency Wam reported.

He said the Ministry of Interior and Dubai Police General Command were involved.

"The real-time co-ordination among all the partners involved ensured swift tactical decisions ... arresting the high-value targets, and dismantling their criminal infrastructure and network," a statement on UAE news agency Wam read.

Lt Gen Abdullah Al Marri, chief of Dubai Police, said the force would work to combat money laundering crimes and clamp down on organised criminal networks.

More than 30 tonnes of drugs were seized during the investigations in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE, run with the support of Europol.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organisation, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.

“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive,” Europol said. It said that the suspects used encrypted communications to organise drugs shipments.

The Netherlands was the country where most of the arrests were made, with 14 people taken into custody in 2021. Europol said six “high-value targets” were arrested in Dubai.

Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe. Its availability on the continent has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices.

More than 214 tonnes of cocaine were seized in the region in 2020, a 6 per cent increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 300 tonnes in 2022.

Updated: November 28, 2022, 4:50 PM