Cocaine lords targeted in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands

Arrested High Value Targets were linked to recent 34-tonne cocaine seizures in Belgium and Germany

Joint actions of the Belgian Federal Police Antwerp (Federale Politie Antwerpen), the Dutch National Police (Politie) and the German Regional Police (Landeskriminalamt Niedersachsen) and Federal Police (Bundeskriminalamt / BKA), coordinated by Europol, led to the identification and indictment of major European High Value Targets importing large amounts of cocaine from South America to the EU. The operation also involved the Paraguayan National Antidrug Secretariat (SENAD – Secretaria Nacional Antidrogas).

This operation targeted the European and South American drugs and money-laundering infrastructure of a large scale trafficking network, which had already taken a massive hit in February 2022. Europol facilitated the exchange of information and produced large amounts of intelligence based on criminal analysis, enabling Europol to unveil a detailed picture of the networks’ operations across countries and continents.

The action day on 20 April 2022 led to:

• Over 35 locations searched
• 17 arrests (5 in Belgium, 11 in Germany and 3 in The Netherlands)
• Seizures in Belgium, Germany and Netherlands including electronic equipment, documents, four vehicles, luxury watches, and real estate including four apartments, as well as bank accounts and cash with a total value of EUR 5.5 million

The missing puzzle piece – European High Value Targets indicted

These operational activities are the culmination of parallel investigation of the Belgian, Dutch and German law enforcement authorities into a criminal network trafficking multi-tonne shipments of cocaine from source countries to Europe. The operation was initiated in February 2021 when law enforcement authorities in the ports of Hamburg and Antwerp seized a total of 34 tonnes of cocaine in 3 shipments linked to this criminal network. During the investigation, the cooperating authorities uncovered that this criminal group had the capacity to ship multiple multi-tonne cocaine consignments towards Europe in just a few months.

The traffickers’ command and control centre, and the European High Value Targets behind it, were based in Dubai. From there, they managed the trafficking of cocaine sourced via their own production infrastructure in Bolivia. Logistical and supply lines were also identified in Paraguay.

The leaders of the criminal network used encrypted communication to arrange their large shipments. The coordination of this multi-tonne cocaine trafficking was intercepted as a result of the 2021 takedown of the SKY ECC encrypted communications platform. This also revealed a large network of legitimate companies set up to enable the import of drugs from South America and the laundering of the related proceeds. As an example, to enter the EU, the cocaine was concealed in shipments of bananas, coffee and plaster.