An international organised crime network, responsible for the large-scale production and trafficking of synthetic drugs, has been broken up following an extensive investigation by European law enforcement authorities. The operation has resulted in the arrest of the key members of the criminal network, the discovery of 3 illegal drug production facilities and the seizure of over 100 kg of amphetamine, significant quantities of drug precursors, ammunition, firearms and explosives.The investigation began when Swedish authorities identified large quantities of amphetamine being trafficked into Sweden. Cooperation was then launched with Europol and other EU Member States when enquiries confirmed that an international criminal network was involved. As a result, in March 2011, based on intelligence and links identified between different countries, Europol initiated ‘Operation Fire’, working together with several European law enforcement agencies. The aim of the operation was to dismantle the organised crime network and stop the large-scale production and trafficking of synthetic drugs within the European Union.
Parallel investigations started in Sweden and Germany, while other concerned countries supported the operation and conducted their own enquiries. Europol assisted with the coordination of ‘Operation Fire’ and the exchange of criminal intelligence.
During the operational phase of the investigation, 30 kg of amphetamine were seized in Sweden and 3 suspects arrested as well as 2 in Germany and 1 in the Netherlands. In addition, cooperation with Bulgarian authorities led to the arrest of 3 members of the organised crime network and the dismantling of 3 illegal synthetic drug production facilities. The Bulgarian authorities seized approximately 75 litres of amphetamine base (enough to produce around 120 kg of pure amphetamine), 15 kg of amphetamine substance and over 1400 litres of various chemicals to produce synthetic drugs. Equipment, including 2 tabletting machines, together with 5 firearms, 150 rounds of ammunition and 6.4 kg of trinitrotoluene (TNT) was also seized.
Following the results of this operation, Europol’s Director, Rob Wainwright, commented: “The successful cooperation between Europol and our European law enforcement partners has delivered a major blow to this dangerous criminal network of drug producers and traffickers, and will bring justice to those concerned. Europol will continue to proactively support such investigations with our intelligence and technical capabilities and we anticipate further results in this area of serious organised crime.”
“Crime knows no borders, and neither should we. This joint operation goes to show just how immensely important it is for national law enforcement and Europol to effectively exchange information about dangerous criminal activities,” said Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs.