20231103 - Seized cocaine

EU law enforcement agency Europol, alongside customs and police in Germany, is claiming to have ‘dismantled’ a criminal organisation after seizing 35 tonnes of cocaine, worth €2.6bn, smuggled in containers.

Following the drug finds, the authorities last week raided 24 houses in Cologne and Hamburg, made six arrests and confiscated cash, documents, electronics, jewellery and high-end vehicles.

The agency said: “Europol has supported the dismantling of a criminal organisation smuggling large quantities of cocaine in containers from South America.

It said the drugs had been moved largely via the ports of Hamburg, Antwerp and Rotterdam, with the investigation “involving law enforcement authorities from Belgium, the Netherlands, Ecuador and Columbia”.

The focus on criminal networks smuggling cocaine through European ports has intensified recently, with many “drug bust at port” stories in headlines this year.

“Between April and September 2023, authorities in Belgium, Ecuador and Germany seized about 35 tonnes of cocaine linked to the activities of this criminal network,” said Europol. “The network operated from Germany, allegedly organising the logistics of their criminal activity through the involvement of a large number of front companies, including transport companies, and criminal associates such as administrative personnel and drivers.”

Of the 35 tonnes, the vast majority (25 tonnes) was found on box ships at Hamburg, with eight tonnes found at Rotterdam, collectively valued at €2.6bn.

The raids in Germany came days after a similar operation, led by the EU agency, that resulted in around 40 people in six countries allegedly involved in drug smuggling via Spanish gateways being arrested.

Europol estimates that, in the past two years, at least 200 tonnes of cocaine have been trafficked through Antwerp and Rotterdam, with authorities ill-equipped to tackle the issue.

Each year, EU ports handle around 90m containers, but border authorities are, at best, says Europol, able to inspect only 10%.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.