A British man is one of 49 people arrested as part of a major international operation to bring down a drug ‘super-cartel’ which seized 30 tonnes of cocaine.
Police apprehended the alleged drug smuggler in Dubai where he is believed to have fled from Spain after an attempted kidnapping against him, according to Spain’s Guardia Civil police force who took part in the operation.
Spanish authorities say the Brit had continued “directing and coordinating the criminal activities of the organisation while maintaining contacts and drug trafficking businesses with the rest of the ‘drug-lords’ while based in the Emirates”.
The man was arrested along with a Panamanian national, also based in the UAE, alleged to be in charge of coordinating drug shipments from the Port of Manzanillo in Panama.
Their illegal business is described as having two distinct operations: one, extracting drugs from commercial seaports, the other laundering money through Spanish real estate companies with a portfolio value of over £20 million.
These arrests are part of a multinational operation coordinated by the EU law enforcement agency, Europol, and included 13 arrests in Spain, six in France, 10 in Belgium, and a total of six in Dubai.
It was conducted with support from the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Some 14 people had already been arrested in 2021 in the Netherlands as part of the same operation.
Their arrests were made possible through a newly-agreed, enhanced cooperation deal between Emirate law enforcement and Europol.
“The drugpins, considered as high-value targets by Europol, had come together to form what was known as a ‘super cartel’ which controlled around one-third of the cocaine trade in Europe,” Europol said. “The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive.”
The operation, called ‘Desert Light’, took place between November 8-19 after the collective of police authorities managed to crack encrypted communications used to organise the drug shipments, identifying suspects.
Police had secretly listened to the conversations between the alleged drug barons over the ‘SKY ECC’ telecommunication platform before dismantling it last year.
The British man and the Panamanian are two of the six people considered “high value” by Europol.
But Europol is particularly welcoming the arrest of one Dutch national in the group. He is deemed an “extremely big fish”, allegedly linked to the transportation of hundreds of thousands kilograms of drugs through the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, according to unnamed Europol sources quoted by the AFP news agency.
That source said at least two of the Dutch nationals taken in are linked to the infamous drug-lord, Ridouan Taghi, who was arrested in Dubai in 2019.
He is the leader of the so called ‘Mocro-Maffia’ and is currently facing trial in the Netherlands for a string of murders related to the group’s drug trade.
That trial has been rocked by the additional murders 3 people working with the crown witness against the gang, including the witness’s main lawyer, his brother, and a famous investigative crime reporter who was coaching him through the case.
Dutch prosecutors have already said they will request the extradition from the UAE of the newly arrested suspects they believe are linked to the ‘Mocro-Maffia’.