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45 arrested in ‘biggest ever crackdown’ on Brazil-Europe drug ring; trans-continental effort exposes extensive smuggling and laundering

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

POLICE HAVE ARRESTED forty-five people and raided close to two hundred properties in a massive operation to intercept a drug smuggling and money laundering syndicate.

Described by Europol as “the biggest ever crackdown against drug ring smuggling cocaine from Brazil into Europe,” this collaborative effort involved over a thousand officers from eight international police forces from the Middle East to Europe to South America.

Most of those taken into custody were arrested in Brazil (38), with 4 arrested in Belgium, 2 in the UAE and 1 in Spain.

In addition, authorities have seized 167 properties in three continents with a combined value of around €26.5 million, along with 107 vehicles – including 37 aircraft – around €13 million in cash, while the assets of ten Spanish citizens have been completely frozen.

“This operation highlights the complex structure and vast reach of Brazilian organised crime groups in Europe,” said Europol Deputy Director Wil van Gemert.

“The scale of the challenge faced today by police worldwide calls for a coordinated approach to tackle the drug trade across continents.”

The syndicate is understood to have orchestrated a vast trans-Atlantic network of importing at least 45 tonnes of cocaine into Europe from Brazil annually.

Laundered profits from these acts are estimated to have topped €100 million in six months. They were transferred across a system of criminal gangs and cartels in South America and Europe.

Most of the “main targets” in the crackdown resided in Brazil – where the drugs were cultivated and prepared before being shipped to Europe.

Authorities also took control of over 52 tonnes of cocaine over the course of their investigation, Europol said.

Describing the network as a “highly professional criminal syndicate,” Europol confirmed that it deployed eight officers across Portugal, Belgium and Brazil to coordinate with national police forces, collect information and alter strategy as the operation progressed. 

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