Spanish authorities seized the largest-ever cocaine in Galicia, a region renowned as a gateway for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe. The significant operation underscores the influence of the ‘Balkan cartel,’ particularly the growing dominance of Albanian criminal organizations in the continent’s drug trade.
Antonio Martínez Duarte, head of the Central Brigade of the Spanish police’s Drugs and Organised Crime Unit, revealed the staggering scale of the operation during a press conference in Madrid. “In one week, we have managed to remove 11 tonnes of cocaine from the market,” he declared.
The illicit cargo, traced back to Colombia via Ecuador, was concealed in containers that arrived at the ports of Vigo in Galicia and Valencia. The first operation in Vigo led to the seizure of 7.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden within frozen tuna fillets, setting a new record for Galicia’s largest drug bust. Galicia, with its historical role as a cocaine gateway, has increasingly become a focal point for law enforcement efforts against drug trafficking from Latin America.
The second operation in Valencia resulted in the confiscation of 3.4 tonnes of cocaine ingeniously concealed in the double bottoms of maritime containers.
Between late November and early December, twenty individuals were arrested in connection with these two operations. The majority of the suspects were of Albanian origin, though the arrests also included a Colombian, a Dominican, and several Spaniards. Shockingly, among those apprehended was a Galician entrepreneur who exploited his fish import business to organize the transportation of the seized drugs.
Antonio Martínez Duarte emphasized that while the two operations were distinct, they shared a common link: the involvement of Albanian-origin organizations. He underscored the significance of the “Balkan cartel,” stating that the mafias from south-eastern Europe were of “very close interest to all European police forces.”
“The Albanian mafias have been monopolizing the transport of drugs for some time, not just in Europe but also in Latin America. These organizations have established themselves at the place of origin (Latin America) and control the transport of drugs from start to finish,” he added.
Commissioner Carlos Gómez, head of the Central Drug Squad, shed light on the evolving landscape of cocaine trafficking in Europe. He noted a shift from closed, hermetic organizations to more open, atomized, and internationalized networks. Some groups even go as far as forming criminal cooperatives to collaboratively manage and share resources.
The recent operations signal a crucial step in dismantling the Albanian mafia’s stronghold in the European drug trade, emphasizing the collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies against these highly organized and adaptable criminal enterprises.