European police have taken down a “super cartel” responsible for nearly half of the cocaine trade on the continent. Shown in dramatic footage, two of the 49 suspects arrested had their houses raided by Europol, with hundreds of thousands in cash seized. The criminals, who had been living lavish lives from the profits of their lucrative drug trafficking, face charges that could leave them in prison for the rest of their lives. It is one of the biggest raids in Europol history; more than 33 tons of illegal drugs were seized during the operation. 

In the footage, dozens of police officers in black uniforms, holding shields and flashlights, can be seen breaking into a property. 

A subsequent search of the property shows several wads of cash stored in an orange Louis Vuitton bag as one man is handcuffed after being dragged out of bed. 

Another house is seen being raided by the police later on, following which a second man is arrested.

Footage of his property shows dozens of supercars and vintage models, as well as a lavish swimming pool. 

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Law enforcement authorities in six different countries joined forces to take down the “super cartel” of drug traffickers controlling about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe, the European Union crime agency said on Monday.

Europol said 49 suspects have been arrested during the investigation, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the United Arab Emirates taking place between November 8 to 19.

The agency said police forces involved in “Operation Desert Light” targeted both the “command-and-control centre and the logistical drugs trafficking infrastructure in Europe”. 

Over 30 metric tons (33 tons) of drugs were seized during the investigations run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE with the support of Europol. 

The US Drug Enforcement Administration also played a role in bringing down the organisation, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.

“The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive,” Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communications to organise drug shipments.

The Netherlands was the country where most of the arrests were made, with 14 suspects arrested in 2021. Europol said six “high-value targets” were arrested in Dubai.

Dutch authorities said one of the suspects arrested in Dubai allegedly imported thousands of kilos of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021. 

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The 37-year-old man with both Dutch and Moroccan nationality is also being prosecuted for laundering large amounts of money and possession of firearms. 

Police started investigating him after investigators cracked the encrypted messaging service Sky ECC, which is popular with criminals.

A 40-year-old Dutch-Bosnian citizen was also arrested in Dubai following an investigation based on intercepted Sky messages, according to Dutch police. He is suspected of importing into Europe cocaine and raw materials for the production of amphetamines.

More than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in the region in 2020, a 6 percent increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 300 metric tons (330 tons) in 2022.

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