Balkan cartel trafficking cocaine from South America to the EU dismantled
A cross-border operation involving law enforcement authorities from Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Spain, and supported by Europol, led to the dismantling of a criminal organisation trafficking cocaine from South America to the EU and beyond.
The investigation into this criminal network lasted several years, and involved a number of EU Member States and third party countries from the Western Balkan region. The drug trafficking network was mainly composed of Montenegrin nationals, but also involved citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy and Serbia. Between 2019 and 2020, law enforcement authorities seized more than six tonnes of cocaine in Aruba (Dutch Antilles), Cote d’Ivoire, Portugal and Spain. The investigations following the seizure in Portugal uncovered possible links between this criminal network and the mafia-style organisation ’Ndrangheta. This same seizure led to the identification of 17 new suspects, 13 of whom were Montenegrin nationals. During the course of the investigation, 29 suspects were prosecuted in Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovenia and Portugal.
On the action day, 27 July 2022, officers across Europe raided 37 locations (1 in Croatia, 2 in Italy, 33 in Montenegro and 1 in Serbia), arrested 12 suspects (1 in Croatia, 1 in Italy, 8 in Montenegro and 2 in Serbia) and seized expensive watches, bank cards, documents, ammunition and weapons, a vehicle and a speedboat and cash.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided continuous analytical support to the investigation. Europol also contributed to the overall case coordination among various agencies in the EU and beyond.