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UAE drug bust against 'super-cartel' controlling one-third of Europe's cocaine

Director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) at a conference on the European Drug markets in Brussels, Belgium on May 06, 2022 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]
Director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) at a conference on the European Drug markets in Brussels, Belgium on May 06, 2022 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

Police in the UAE, in cooperation with Europol, have dismantled a "super-cartel" operating in Dubai, believed to have controlled one-third of Europe's cocaine supply.

According to Europol, 49 people from several countries were arrested, including six "high-value targets" in Dubai, as part of a police operation dubbed "Desert Light". Co-ordinated, parallel raids were also carried out in Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands,, with over 30 tons of drugs seized by law enforcement officers.

"The drug pins, 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 in a statement.

AFP reported that Dutch prosecutors are now seeking the extradition of the suspects arrested in the UAE. One of the suspects was a 37-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality, who was held for allegedly importing thousands of kilogrammes (pounds) of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021.

"These are serious criminal offences pertaining to international drug trafficking, mainly from South America via the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam," the Dutch Public Prosecution Service said in a statement.

Another key suspect was a 40-year-old dual Dutch-Bosnian national, it said. "One of the Dutch suspects is an extremely big fish," a Europol source was quoted as saying.

The collaboration between UAE authorities and Europol follows a Liaison Officer Agreement signed in September between Europol and the Ministry of Interior, as part of their commitment to tackle transnational crime, Europol said. The agreement ensures the deployment of UAE law enforcement liaison officers to Europol's headquarters in the Netherlands.

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