17 people have been arrested in Europe in a joint country operation targeting a global cocaine trafficking network. The operation saw Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, work with authorities in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Paraguay to coordinate an operation against the drug network.
In total 35 locations were searched. In a press release Europol stated they found cash and bank accounts worth over €5.5 million, electronic equipment, 4 vehicles and documents (the nature of which was not stated). Of the 17 people arrested, 11 occurred in Germany and 5 and 3 were arrested in Belgium and The Netherlands respectively.
The operation began in February 2021 when more than 23 tonnes of cocaine was seized in Belgium and Germany, which was destined for The Netherlands. The 16 tonnes of cocaine seized in Hamburg, Germany was hidden in tins of wall filler (picture below). While the 7.2 tonnes seized in Antwerp, Belgium were hidden in containers filled with wooden blocks.
Europe has recently replaced the US as the world’s largest consumer market of cocaine, hence, there is a huge amount of cocaine being trafficked from the producing states in South America, primarily Colombia, to the European market. The sheer scale of the market means busts like the one mentioned previously, and the arrests today, will have little to no effect on the market. The people and drugs now arrested and seized are easily replaceable, and the desire of cocaine in Europe requires them to be.