Agents of the Spanish National Police, in a joint operation with EUROPOL and the police authorities of Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, have developed a macro operation that has led to the dismantling of one of the most active criminal organizations in Europe dedicated, allegedly, to to the introduction of cocaine in Spain from South America for its subsequent distribution throughout the rest of Europe. The dismantled group was responsible for shipping more than 23.5 tons of cocaine, exported from Paraguay. A total of 39 people have been arrested, twelve of them in Spain, specifically in Barcelona, in whose port more than half a ton of this narcotic substance was seized.
The arrests have been carried out by means of a simultaneous device in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Paraguay. They are historical criminals wanted by Europe and who formed a very experienced and violent organization.
First phase: 59 searches in Germany and 32 arrest warrants
The main target of the police investigation was a Spanish citizen born in Germany who served a prison sentence in his country for more than ten years for crimes of attempted murder. He was currently being investigated for serious crimes of drug trafficking, criminal organization and money laundering. Within the framework of the Belarus operation, a first phase was carried out in Germany that led to the materialization of more than 59 home searches and 32 arrest warrants in the month of March 2021.
Since then, the investigation focused on the two main leaders of the organization, who were also the main organizers of the cocaine trafficking operations, which they did through a third person.
The operation began when the illegal importation of 16 tons of cocaine was detected in the port of Hamburg, which led to the arrest of five known members of the organization, the drug coming hidden in paint cans that had been exported in three containers from Paraguay. . Subsequently, and once the route used by the organization was known, the Dutch authorities were able to locate and intercept another container in the port of Antwerp (Belgium), in which seven tons of cocaine were transported inside, being arrested in those moments two people.
As a result of those interventions, the analysis of all the available intelligence began, being able to detect how the group itself was a user of various encrypted platforms, identifying their users and the people involved. Through the analysis of this information, it was possible to verify who were the real investors and “brokers” of the illicit importation. It was such an extremely active and sophisticated organization that when they detected how their exports were falling in the ports of Europe, they began to clone and duplicate the containers. They even made use of bona fide companies with proven solvency in the commercial field.
Exploitation of research
Due to the pressure that had been exerted in Germany and Belgium, part of the organization that had not been able to be arrested decided to move to Spain to establish its base of operations. Among the members who moved to Spain was one of its leaders. From that moment, the agents subjected him to a close follow-up, starting the Lobo operation, which allowed his location after arduous investigative work.
In the surveillance devices, it was possible to observe that this person was trying to establish himself in Spain, and that he was looking for the necessary logistics that would allow him to receive his cocaine in the peninsula. Along with him, several subjects from Albania, Colombia and Spain were detected. Subsequently, movements by the leader of the organization were detected that indicated that he was imminently going to receive or was waiting for a shipment of cocaine, for which the surveillance and controls around the organization were intensified.
During the following weeks, the remaining individuals were identified, who had extensive experience in the world of drug trafficking, some of them having an extremely violent background and residing in the vicinity of the city of Barcelona, where they reside regularly. Among them, there were two German citizens with valid European Arrest and Surrender Warrants, wanted and claimed for serious drug trafficking crimes.
These people used forged documentation that they carried with them and exhibited in case they were identified. The knowledge that they had been wanted for years for their extradition, together with their extensive experience in the development of criminal activities, made these people adopt excessive security measures in their daily lives that made it difficult for investigators when carrying out permanent control over them. Similarly, an individual was identified, a truck driver by profession and a member of the criminal organization, who provided his services to, if required, extract the organization’s containers from inside the port of Barcelona using his own vehicle.
At the same time, it was detected how the criminal organization even had an industrial warehouse that they frequented sporadically in the province of Tarragona and a commercial premises in the town of El Prat de Llobregat. This last place was used for the indoor cultivation and storage of marijuana, a system with which the organization financed part of the cocaine import operation. On occasion, it also served as a meeting place for members of the organization.
The investigative methods used allowed to determine the place where the criminal organization wanted to store the narcotic substance, a ship located in a small town in the province of Tarragona. When those investigated intensified their activity, the surveillance devices made it possible to certify the role of each of the detainees, the places of habitual residence, the floors used as security places in which to store money and documentation, and the cars usually used.
Finally, the operation was exploited, being able to detect how the narcotic substance intended to be introduced into the criminal organization’s ship, and proceeding to the arrest of four subjects in charge of receiving, storing and later transporting the drug. Special mention deserves the fact that the organization had a security camera inside a car recording live the moment of arrival and entry of the drug, confirming the logistical capacity of the criminal group.
After locating and securing the narcotic substance, the rest of the members of the network were arrested in the city of Barcelona, registering six homes and a commercial premises located in Prat de Llobregat, in which an indoor cultivation of marijuana was found. The investigation not only allowed the organization’s logistics network to be dismantled, but also the top leaders, responsible for the importation and distribution of the 477 kilos of cocaine, were arrested.
Similarly, the operation made it possible to directly attack the financial muscle of the organization, seizing more than 510,000 euros in cash and completely dismantling the network. Several of the seized vehicles had different hidden compartments for the safe transport of the substance without being discovered.
This intervention has turned out to be the largest seizure of cocaine carried out so far this year in Tarragona, and has proven that criminal organizations, as a result of continuous police pressure, are using locations very different from those usually used, moving away from the most hot and opting for more discreet towns and not traditionally linked to the storage and distribution of narcotic substances.