Watch: UAE helps bring down cocaine 'super-cartel'; 6 of Europe's biggest drug kingpins arrested

Over 30 tonnes of drugs were seized during the investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol

By A Staff Reporter

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Photo: Europol
Photo: Europol

Published: Mon 28 Nov 2022, 2:54 PM

Last updated: Mon 28 Nov 2022, 8:52 PM

Six of Europe’s biggest drug kingpins have been arrested as a result of an international crackdown involving six countries, including the UAE.

Between November 8 and 19, coordinated raids across Europe and the UAE targeted the command-and-control centre and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe.

A total of 49 suspects were arrested during the course of the investigation. The drug kingpins considered ‘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.

The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control was massive. Over 30 tonnes of drugs were seized by law enforcement authorities over the course of the investigations.

How the arrests were made

Lieutenant-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and UAE Minister of Interior, lauded the joint international efforts between the Dubai Police, Europol and law enforcement authorities of Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the US.

Code-named Operation 'Desert Light', it busted the transnational criminal network involved in drugs trafficking and money laundering.

Parallel investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol resulted in the arrests.

Spain effected 13 arrests, in addition to two high-value targets in Dubai. France made six arrests and two high-value targets in Dubai. Belgium had 10 arrests, while the Netherlands made 14 arrests, in addition to two high-value targets in Dubai.

Lieutenant-General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, commander-in-chief of the Dubai Police, said the operation is testimony to the UAE's efforts in combating money laundering crimes and clamping down on organised criminal networks. He said the “real-time coordination” among all the partners involved ensured swift tactical decisions that led to dismantling the criminal infrastructure and network.


Tracking the suspects

According to Europol, it developed “reliable intelligence” concerning the drug trafficking cartel flooding Europe with cocaine. The main targets, who used encrypted communications to organise the shipments, were identified in the participating authorities.

Europol hosted multiple coordination meetings in the last two years to bring together the different countries working on the same targets to establish a joint strategy to bring down the whole network. More than 10 operational meetings took place at Europol in this period.

In addition, Europol provided intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators.

How UAE, Europol enhanced cooperation

Earlier in September, the UAE Ministry of Interior and Europol took an important step in enhancing cooperation. A ‘Liaison Officer Agreement’ was signed between the two parties, allowing UAE law enforcement officers to be deployed to Europol’s headquarters in the Netherlands.

A liaison officer from the Ministry of Interior of the UAE has already joined the network of more than 250 from over 50 countries and organisations.

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