Europol has supported the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) in dismantling a criminal organization smuggling large quantities of cocaine from South America to the European Union via the Canary Islands. The operation also involved law enforcement authorities from Croatia, Italy and Serbia. The investigation identified a significant threat; criminal organizations' increasing ability to collaborate closely and deploy members to different locations for longer periods to enable large-scale drug trafficking. The international cooperation of law enforcement authorities across the EU was therefore crucial for intercepting the suspects and halting their criminal activities.
The investigation, initiated in March 2022, focused on a Polish-flagged vessel with an established temporary base in the Canary Islands, and which was suspected of being used for the transportation of cocaine. Since then, law enforcement authorities monitored the activities of the crew. One of the individuals, an Italian national, was linked to the Italian ´Ndrangheta and the other, a Croatian national, was linked to the so-called Balkan Cartel. Although they had no professional activity, both were enjoying high living standards while maintaining the vessel in excellent condition.
The suspicious vessel was making irregular trips to demonstrate normality up until 27 July 2023, when the Spanish authorities detected an unusual trip to an isolated point deeper in the Atlantic Ocean. The vessel departed from there on 2 August and three days later Spanish authorities raided the ship and uncovered 700 kilograms of cocaine on it. Meanwhile, officers on the ground in Spain arrested the Croatian suspect and another person, a Serbian national, both suspected of coordinating the drug smuggling operation from the land. During the arrests, the suspects were found in possession of the phones from which they coordinated the criminal activity.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided continuous analytical support to the investigation. Europol also contributed to the overall case coordination among various agencies and supported the action day remotely
Likewise in Brazil federal authorities seized 55 kg of cocaine last week at the Container Terminal of the Port of Paranaguá. The drug tablets were discovered concealed within a shipment of furniture intended for the Port of Durban in South Africa.
Traffickers used the rip-on/rip-off method, whereby the drug is hidden within a container without the exporter’s knowledge. During the inspection, the Federal Revenue’s trained detection dog identified the presence of cocaine within the container.
With this seizure, the tally of cocaine confiscated by Federal Revenue officials in the port of Paranaguá reaches 462 kg, from 14 seizures conducted throughout 2023.
Details of the case have been relayed to law enforcement agencies and foreign customs administrations, reinforcing the global effort to combat international drug trafficking.
The Federal Revenue Service maintains customs oversight over incoming cargo and vehicles, as well as those destined for foreign shores, with the overarching aim of facilitating international trade while upholding the security and the law.