Simultaneous raids carried out across Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands on 24 May resulted in mass arrests of members of a cocaine cartel from the Western Balkans.
According to a press release by Europe’s law enforcement agency, Europol, the raids led to the arrest of “37 members of a highly violent criminal cell from the Western Balkans.”
“A total of 37 suspects were arrested over the course of the investigation, including the gang’s ringleader- a national from Bosnia & Herzegovina considered as a high-value target by Europol and currently serving a 4 year-long prison sentence in Italy,” the press release continues.
“Out of these 37 suspects, 15 were arrested as a result of the action day this week.”
Investigators said they had discovered how the ringleader of the cocaine cartel orchestrated his gang’s activities from his prison cell, from where he is believed to have regularly given orders and instructions regarding drugs and firearms trafficking operations.
As part of the joint raids, authorities searched a prison cell in Belgium, a garage in the Netherlands used to store cocaine, and several properties across Croatia, Germany, Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Police discovered stores of drugs, firearms and explosives in the raids.
In detail, police seized more than 15 kilograms of cocaine, 11 kilograms of heroin, three kilograms of amphetamine, seven kilograms of marijuana and ten kilograms of hashish. They also found 18 firearms, more than 2,500 pieces of ammunition, explosives with remote detonators, and stores of cash.
According to investigators, the group was responsible for smuggling more than 100 kilograms of cocaine.
“This international sweep follows a complex investigation led by the Croatian General Police Directorate in the framework of the Operational Taskforce ‘Balkan Cartel’,” Europol stated.
“The intelligence development carried out by Europol after the recent takedown of three encrypted communication tools used by criminals – Encrochat, Sky ECC and ANOM – revealed the prevalence of Balkan criminals in the global criminal landscape,” it continued.
According to Bosnian media reports, the cocaine cartel was led by Dino Muzaferovic, also known as Cezar. He was re-arrested in his prison cell in Italy, where he is currently serving a four-year sentence.
The joint raids were coordinated from a command post in Croatia’s Zagreb, with the support of Europol officers on the ground and local police in the countries where the raids took place.
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