Business jet seized after international law enforcement agencies stage drug raids

Mike Stones
By Mike Stones August 8, 2019 13:11

Business jet seized after international law enforcement agencies stage drug raids

These low-resolution images of the business jet involved in one of the drugs raids were supplied by Europol.

A business jet has been seized as part of an international action, co-ordinated by Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Administration, to smash a Balkan crime gang suspected of smuggling cocaine from South America to Europe.

The operation – known as Operation Familia – resulted in 16 arrests, with 11 in Europe and five in Asia. The raids also netted more than one tonne of cocaine and €2 million in cash.

A global investigation launched and led last year by the Croatian Police and the Croatian Special Prosecutors’ Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime revealed suspicions that a large-scale Balkans-organised criminal network was trafficking cocaine from South America to Europe using private planes. A fleet of aircraft was alleged to be used by the gang – including what is thought to be a Gulfstream G550 pictured above.

Gulfstream G550

The recently-revealed raids staged in May, involved simultaneous action from law enforcement agencies from three different continents – Asia, Europe and South America. The collaboration resulted in the seizure of cocaine in Switzerland, after observation operations led by France. One of the alleged ringleaders, considered as a high-value target, was arrested in Switzerland, in close cooperation with France, while coordinating a 600 kg cocaine shipment importation using a private plane, according to a statement from Europol.

“The investigation revealed that the Balkan traffickers were not only operating in Europe and South America, where they prepared several flights from one continent to another between 2018 and 2019 but also in Asia, where they facilitated and coordinated the maritime trafficking of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, mostly in Hong Kong and Macao,” said Europol.

Further investigations revealed that the organised criminal network allegedly had close ties to criminal associates operating out of various EU and non-EU countries. These were mainly: Australia, Belgium, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czechia, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Macao, Malaysia, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovenia and Uruguay.

Multi-kilogram cocaine seizure

A parallel investigation targeted a Balkan-organised crime group in Asia. The coordination of several US DEA country offices in Asia and Europe led the investigator to identify the Balkan criminal cell that operated out of Asia. “The cell received cocaine shipments trafficked by sea. The investigation ultimately resulted in a multi-kilogram cocaine seizure carried out by Hong Kong Customs and Macanese Judicial Police,” said a Europol statement.

In addition to the seizure of cocaine and cash, more than €1 million in luxury goods, such as high-quality watches and vehicles were confiscated in Croatia, Czechia, Serbia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Corporate Jet Investor has asked Europol and DEA for more details about the raid, including the status of the aircraft and the fate of the aircrew, but has yet to receive a response from either organisation.

Mike Stones
By Mike Stones August 8, 2019 13:11

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