With the assistance of Eurojust and Europol, the judicial and law enforcement authorities in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands collaborated to dismantle a drug trafficking network primarily composed of Albanian nationals. During a joint action, 35 suspects were arrested and 51 apartments and premises were searched in the countries involved. More than 600 police officers participated in the operation, in which Eurojust assisted the different authorities in setting up and financing a joint investigation team on the case.
The criminal network is believed to be responsible for the extensive trafficking of cocaine and cannabis from South America to Europe, as well as its subsequent distribution throughout the European Union. It is also known for the use of violence, including episodes of torture and kidnapping for extortion.
The criminals were able to draw on significant economic resources allegedly obtained from previous drug trafficking activities. The network operated multiple logistical bases where they stored the illicit substances and the proceeds from their criminal activities, providing meeting locations for the members of the group. They also owned a large fleet of vehicles equipped with sophisticated hidden compartments, cell phones with encrypted text messaging applications and other utilities.
Based on the investigation findings, the criminal network carried out at least 36 imports totalling a tonne of cocaine and a tonne of hashish between the months of March 2020 and June 2021. These substances would have generated more than 1 billion euros in the distribution market. Over 1 million euros in cash was also seized during the investigation.
The proceeds of the crime were divided among the network members based on their individual responsibilities. In Germany, some suspects owned a luxury restaurant, a bar and a real estate agency that were allegedly used to launder drug money.
The case was opened at Eurojust in September 2021 at the request of the German authorities. In July 2022, a coordination strategy was set up between German and Italian authorities with the support of Eurojust. The Agency organised two coordination meetings to facilitate judicial cooperation and prepare its joint action day.
The European Serious and Organised Crime Centre has been actively assisting the case since late 2020. During this period, it has exchanged over 250 secure messages with the relevant authorities involved. Extensive analytical support enabled the identification of key targets and mapping of their criminal activities around the world. Europol organised several operational meetings, both at its headquarters in The Hague and abroad. In addition, two Europol officers were on the ground in Germany and Italy during the action day to support the authorities with their investigative measures.
During the day of action, a secure communication platform was also set up by Europol to enable the exchange of tactical information in real time between the various police authorities involved.
The research and organisation of the joint action day was supported by the @ON Network, funded by the European Union (Internal Security Fund Project ISF4@ON) and led by the Italian Antimafia Investigation Directorate (DIA).