THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – A meticulous police operation in 10 countries dismantled an Albanian organized crime group that trafficked cocaine between South America and Europe, and led to the arrest of 20 suspects, the European Union law enforcement agency announced Thursday. .
The gang, known as Kompania Bello, was one of the most active cocaine trafficking networks in Europe, according to Europol, which helped coordinate a series of searches carried out by hundreds of officers on Tuesday that led to the arrests following an investigation by five years run by Italy.
The group was unusual in that it controlled every aspect of the supply chain, from organizing shipments from South America to distributing the drug across Europe, said Jari Liukku, director of Europol’s Center against Organized Crime and Serious Crime.
The network even stamped its logo, and those of others for which it imported drugs, on the cocaine blocks that it transported to Europe and that they used to distribute using cars with hidden compartments to hide both the substances and the illegal money. In addition, he used Chinese criminals to help launder the resulting profits through a clandestine transfer system.
Over the course of the 5-year investigation, authorities detained 84 other members of the gang in Italy, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Switzerland and Germany. During this time, the police seized about four tons of cocaine and more than 5.5 million euros.
Suspects arrested Tuesday in countries including Italy, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates face charges that include international drug trafficking and murder.
Europol claimed that the raids were the largest ever carried out against an Albanian gang and highlighted the size of its operations, which ranged from negotiating with South American cartels to distributing drugs in Europe, Russia and Turkey using an encrypted communications system.