Cocaine Super Cartel Dismantled Across Six Countries


Between November 8 and 19, the Spanish Civil Guard took part in Operation Desert Light, an international macro-operation that resulted in the arrests of 49 people in six countries. These individuals were responsible for the movement of one-third of the cocaine that entered Europe.

During these dates, coordinated raids were carried out across Europe in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates. They targeted drug trafficking centers and operations. The amount of cocaine imported into Europe under the suspects’ command was massive and law enforcement seized more than 30 tonnes of drugs during the investigations.

What led to the discovery of the super cartel?

The search for the culprits started over two years ago. In March 2020, approximately 698 kilograms of cocaine were discovered following a Spanish Civil Guard’s inspection of a container in the Port of Valencia. Given that the event was identified as a blind shipment (the company and individuals did not know of the goods that were being illegally transported), there were no detainees. Through this seizure, the Spanish forces confirmed the activity of a criminal organization that was importing containers of cocaine through the ports of Barcelona, ​​Valencia, and Algeciras.

Their research led them to find another network run by a Bulgarian citizen. According to anonymous sources, this citizen was arrested due to his classification as a high-value target and packages linked to him. In total, five individuals were arrested in the capital of Catalonia (including the Bulgarian citizen), who facilitated the entry and exit of vessels containing drugs. 

The dismantlement of the super cartel

In recent weeks, Operation Desert Light enabled the discovery of a “cocaine super cartel” composed of independent but interconnected drug operations. 

Six of the 49 arrested individuals are classified as “drug lords and high-value targets.” These six people were all arrested in Dubai which the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers a haven for international criminals. Dubai’s elevated standard of living and tax exemptions for legal and natural persons have allowed it to become a haven for drug lords. 

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Different operations lead by EU member states and their respective amount of arrests, November 28.
Image by Europol.

According to Emirate’s News Agency (WAMP), Lieutenant General Al Marri (the Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police) described Operation Desert Light as a testimony to the UAE’s tireless efforts to clamp down on organized criminal networks. Ultimately, the UAE’s coordination with four other countries and Europol resulted in the operation’s success.

Police files and documents from the Interior Ministry of Spain reveal that since 1987, drug-related seizures have increased by 5,000%. This statistic represents the largest volume of seized drugs in comparison to surrounding European countries. 

Current trends indicate that the number of seizures in Spain is expected to continue, as the country has strengthened its forces and is currently conducting investigations on other high-value targets and criminal networks.

Cover image by: Europol

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