International drug trafficking between South America and Europe disrupted by police: 48 arrested

21 December 2018
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Police officers from the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), together with the Argentine National Gendarmerie, the Italian Finance Corps (Guardia di Finanza) and Europol have dismantled a criminal organisation responsible for cocaine trafficking from South America to Italy and Spain. Almost 50 suspects were arrested thanks to this joint operation involving more than 750 police officers: 31 in Spain, 17 in Argentina and 3 suspects are under investigation in Italy.

This organised crime group was involved in the cultivation, sale and distribution of marijuana in the Costa del Sol region in southern Spain, and cocaine trafficking via maritime containers from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru to Europe. The suspects, living in Argentina and Spain, were laundering money coming from the drug activities, sending it back from Europe to Argentina to then invest it into the property market.

The Argentine law enforcement authorities have had this international criminal group on their radar for the last decade. Since the start of the European investigation in 2017, the suspects moved more than two tonnes of cocaine: 1 200 kg seized by the Spanish National Police and 1 100 kg by Argentine National Gendarmerie when it was being transported from Bolivia to Argentina, destined to Europe.

During a Joint Action Day on 12 December 2018, 31 suspects were arrested in Spain, 17 in Argentina and 3 people are under investigation in Italy. In Spain, 25 house searches were carried out. Europol has supported this case from the beginning, providing both analytical and forensic support. On the day of the arrests, Europol experts were deployed on the spot, assisting the Spanish authorities with mobile forensics.

In Argentina, more than 60 properties were searched and the authorities seized €350 000, numerous vehicles and 47 properties. The Italian Finance Corps conducted five house searches.