Dozens arrested in Belgium and Spain in major drug trafficking operation

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Authorities from six European countries were involved in the operation.
Authorities from six European countries were involved in the operation.   -  Copyright  Europol

European police forces have arrested 45 people in an international operation targeting a major cocaine trafficking network.

The suspects are accused of importing drugs to various European ports from Latin America using cargo planes, private jets and shipping containers.

The operation took down “one of Europe’s most active Albanian-speaking cocaine trafficking networks in Europe,” Europol said in a statement.

"Over 600 law enforcement officers, in close cooperation with prosecutors and investigative officers, carried out raids against the members of this network in Spain and Belgium," it added.

The raids took place at more than 80 locations across Europe, including 49 searches around Brussels and the port city of Antwerp.

The Belgian federal prosecutor's office confirmed that 30 people had been arrested, while "a large quantity of acetone, several kilos of cannabis as well as counterfeit police clothing" were seized.

The suspects are accused of collaborating with citizens from southern Europe who belong to crime families in the Belgian province of Limburg.

"This high-level criminal network had set up a string of enterprises in various countries to launder the profits," Europol added.

Seven countries -- including Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain -- were involved in the operation.

Belgium has become a major hub trafficking drugs into Europe, with thousands of shipping containers reaching Antwerp every day.

Last year, Belgian police made several dozen arrests during an unprecedented operation against organised crime and encrypted communications networks.