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Crime and Policing

Major international cartel shut down



The Guardia Civil, with the coordination of EUROPOL, has led Operation ADRIATICA since 2020, in which several European countries have also participated with different police operations, all of them directed against the different criminal groups dependent on the well-known Balkan cartel, an international criminal drug trafficking organisation that is responsible for the supply of tons of cocaine from South America, mainly from Brazil. It has also been possible to dismantle its logistics centres in West Africa that distributed throughout the European Union.

In an unprecedented coordination at the police level from EUROPOL, different police operations have been carried out in the last four years, not only between EU countries, but there has also been total and fundamental collaboration for the success of the operation of countries such as Brazil, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

All these operations have been carried out by the different participating countries judicially independently, according to the legislation of each country, but in a coordinated manner between their authorities. The objective of these four years has been to dismantle different international criminal groups dependent on the aforementioned “Balkan Super Cartel.”

In the same way, all these operations were directed from Dubai and Turkey, where the main people responsible for these criminal groups were established – closely linked to each other – and with the capacity to deploy their collaborators in different parts of the world in order to facilitate this global cocaine trafficking.

Background; Operation Falkusa in September 2020

As far as Spain is concerned, the Guardia Civil carried out operation Falkusa in 2020, intercepting 1,000 kilos of cocaine on a Croatian-flagged sailboat bound for the Canary Islands and arresting its three occupants. In this way, investigators were able to corroborate that the aforementioned sailboat loaded its merchandise from a cargo ship in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea.

The information obtained in this operation, especially that extracted from the encrypted communications of the devices seized from the detainees, was shared with Europol, being a fundamental contribution to reinforce the already existing OTF BALKAN CARTEL of the European police agency.

All subsequent police actions have been directed against a criminal organisation that directed the trafficking of tons of cocaine from Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil, the latter being the point of origin in most of the cases investigated, passing all its maritime shipments through logistics centres in West Africa and the Canary Islands.

In the same way, the Central Operational Unit of the Guardia Civil, in August 2023, intercepted a boat with 700 kilos of cocaine, in waters near the Canary Islands, also extracting information of great value in the history of the devices seized. Investigators concluded that a previous transport of 500 kilos of cocaine from Brazil had been carried out by the same Italian-Croatian crew and the same vessel.

All this information has been of great help in the course of this macro-operation, locating its managers and intermediaries from the Western Balkans, this contribution from Spain coinciding with the exchange of information between countries such as Belgium, Germany and Serbia against the same objectives.

Overall, this operation completed this week in Malaga closes with the following results:

  • 40 detainees, three of them high value, in Brazil, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Turkey.
  • Eight tons of cocaine seized in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.
  • Asset seizures: 12.5 million euro and 3 million dollars in Brazil, and more than 50 million euro blocked in Serbia.


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