Over 300 arrested in Europol Operation against organised crime groups


THE HAGUE: Police from 52 countries “in a major blow to organised crime groups” have seized 2.38 tonnes of cocaine and arrested 314 individuals following a week-long international operation, Europol announced on Wednesday, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

Coded Ciconia Alba, the operation focused on disrupting the most dangerous criminal networks, with investigators putting emphasis on cases related to facilitated illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug trafficking and cybercrime, Europol said in a statement.

In the operations, law enforcement checks related to human trafficking targeted red-light districts, massage parlours, private apartments, airports and immigration reception centres.

“The nationality of the identified victims of human trafficking, and the suspects arrested during the operations, confirmed that trafficking networks originating in Nigeria, Asia and Eastern Europe are the most active in the EU,” the statement said.

In one case, Austrian authorities discovered a cannabis plantation while performing checks at a brothel to identify potential victims of sexual exploitation. The officers ordered the closure of the premises, which was being run as an illegal brothel, and a new investigation was initiated.

In another case, Europol was able to establish links between a payment card fraud case and a case on facilitating illegal immigration. This information was forwarded to colleagues from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) based at an airport in Athens, Greece.

Following the lead provided by Europol, the officers intercepted four irregular migrants who were intending to travel to Italy. Four forged passports and four fraudulently-purchased flight tickets to Italy were found on them, and the individuals were arrested.

Moreover, a fake travel agency was discovered in Greece that was facilitating the trafficking of human beings and illegal immigration.

In total, some 529 victims of trafficking were found in brothels and massage parlors, 314 people were arrested and about 2.4 tonnes of cocaine was seized. More than 540,000 people and vehicles were searched and checked and a total of 181,500 euros were seized.

In addition, intelligence collected during the operations triggered the initiation of 449 new investigations.