Two Dutch ‘kingpins’ arrested in major Europol drugs operation

Photo: Europol
Photo: Europol

Two Dutch nationals described as key players in an international drug smuggling ring have been arrested in an operation spanning Europe and the United Arab Emirates.

A total of 49 people were arrested in six countries in what Europol said was a co-ordinated investigation into a ‘prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering’.

They include six people described as ‘high-value targets’ who were arrested in Dubai, two of them Dutch dual nationals.

The Dutch prosecution service said the arrests were the result of ‘intense and successful’ co-operation between European police forces and the Dubai Police Force, based on intercepted messages sent on the Sky Global cryptophone network.

One of the suspects, a 37-year-old man with Dutch and Moroccan nationality, is accused of playing a central role in importing thousands of kilos of cocaine into the Netherlands in 2020 and 2021, as well as money laundering, corrupting officials and firearms possession.

The other lead suspect is 40 years old, lives in Bosnia-Herzegovina and has Bosnian as well as Dutch nationality. He is believed to have co-ordinated the import of substantial quantities of cocaine as well as nearly 8,000kg of materials used to produce amphetamines.

The man allegedly operated as an ‘organiser, broker and financier’ in a series of major cocaine deals, including the import of around 1,800kg to the Netherlands via Hamburg in 2020 and 739.5kg from Durban, South Africa to Rotterdam.

Belgian and Dutch police announced in March 2021 that they had cracked Sky ECC, at the time the world’s largest cryptophone network with 70,000 customers, and shared the decrypted messages with law enforcement agencies worldwide.

The arrests announced on Monday include 14 people who were detained by Dutch police in 2021. Other suspects were arrested by police in Spain, France and Belgium, while the US Drug Enforcement Administration was also involved in the operation.

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