An extensive investigation involving the Brazilian Federal Police (Polícia Federal), Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), the US Drugs Enforcement Administration and the Paraguayan SENAD, coordinated by Europol, has led to the dismantling of a major criminal organisation involved in large-scale cocaine trafficking and money laundering. The criminal network was shipping cocaine in maritime shipping containers. Since September 2020, authorities from Belgium, Brazil, Italy, Netherlands and Spain have seized about 10 tonnes of cocaine and BRL 11 million (about EUR 1.85 million).
The action day on 15 February 2022 led to:
Around 40 locations searched in Brazil, Paraguay, and Spain
Around 30 arrests (in Rio De Janeiro, São Paulo, Santos e Volta Redonda, Brazil and 7 in Barcelona, Spain)
Seizures included: drugs, vehicles, firearms, cash and several bank accounts in Brazil, Paraguay and Spain
Multi-tonne cocaine trafficking to the EU
The investigative activities revealed that the criminal organisation could ship several multi-tonne cocaine consignments to Europe every few months. Authorities discovered a production infrastructure based in Bolivia with logistical and supply lines in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The investigation also uncovered the command and control centres of the organisation in Dubai. The members of the network used encrypted communications to coordinate their criminal activities. This included SKY ECC, a platform which was taken down in 2021. The suspects used these encrypted communications platforms to supply drugs to Europe and launder the criminal assets. The criminal organisation set up a network of companies to enable the import of drugs from South America and the laundering of the related proceeds. Front men in the payroll of the organisation controlled this network of companies.
The exchange and proactive collection of criminal intelligence, supported by Europol, led to the discovery of a distribution network based in Valencia and Barcelona which was responsible for receiving the cocaine shipments and circulating them on the European market. Brazilian and Spanish authorities then intercepted a number of these shipments and identified some of the companies involved in the criminal scheme.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided continuous analytical support. The intelligence developments provided by Europol allowed the investigators in the field to create a detailed picture of the networks operating across countries and continents. On the Action Day, Europol deployed officers to Brazil and to Spain to support intelligence developments during the field activities.