Thanks to BBC News for this:

A drug “super cartel” that controlled about a third of Europe’s cocaine supply has been dismantled, police have announced.

Dubbed Operation Desert Light, some 49 people were arrested across six European countries, the EU’s police agency, Europol, said.

They included a British national, who is suspected of heading the operation.

More than 30 tonnes (over 66,000 pounds) of drugs were seized during the two-year-long investigation, Europol said.

Operation Desert Light

Operation Desert Light saw authorities in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) work together to bring down the cartel, Europol said in a statement.

Those arrested included six “high-value targets” – those most wanted by international police.

Among them was a British national who Spanish police said had been living in the Costa Del Sol, Spain.

Europol said the “drugpins” had formed a “prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering.”

Cocaine imported from South America via the Netherlands was the main focus of the investigation, and most of the arrests were made there in 2021.

The others were made earlier this month, between 8-19 November, during coordinated raids across six countries, Europol said.

Operation Desert Light

The British man suspected of heading the “super cartel” had fled to Dubai after earlier avoiding arrest in Spain, the country’s Guardia Civil said in a statement. He allegedly continued to lead the cartel from the UAE.

Europol said a new agreement with UAE has enabled detectives to access intelligence, and arrest criminals once beyond reach.

An anonymous Europol source told the AFP news agency that another “big fish” Dutch suspect, with alleged links to high-profile Moroccan-Dutch crime boss Ridouan Taghi, was also detained. Dutch prosecutors said they would request the extradition of the suspects from the UAE who now face large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Analysts say data from the past decade suggests access to cocaine in Europe is increasing yearly.

Offences related to cocaine use or possession are also rising, with an estimated 3.5 million adults consuming the drug in the past year.

Operation Desert Light

The 2020 international policing operation that brought down EncroChat, a mobile network and maker of modified smartphones used by organized crime groups, led to the seizure of 20 tonnes of drugs in the UK.

“At the time, this was described this as ‘the broadest and deepest ever UK operation into serious organised crime’,” Ms Eastwood told the BBC. “However, cocaine and other drugs continued be easily available across the country.”



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