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22 arrested across Europe in swoop on ‘dangerous drug gang’

Europol says group was involved in drug and cigarette trafficking and assassinations

WT24 Desk

Police have arrested 22 suspects in an operation across five countries that dismantled one of Europe’s top criminal groups behind drug trafficking and assassinations, the EU’s police agency has said, AFP reports.

The operation, codenamed Icebreaker, which took place last week, led to the arrest of the 48-year-old Lithuanian alleged ringleader in Spain and other suspects in Poland, Lithuania, Spain and Britain, Europol said.

The “highly professional and dangerous” gang was involved in “large-scale drug and cigarette trafficking, assassinations and money laundering”, netting an estimated €680m ($760m) over the past two years, it said.

About 450 police raided 40 properties, seizing €8m in cash, diamonds, gold bars, jewellery and luxury vehicles, as well as hidden compartments used to smuggle drugs, Europol said in a statement.

The gang made most of its money by trafficking drugs and cigarettes into Britain and then smuggling the cash to Poland, where it was laundered in currency exchange offices and invested in property in Spain and other countries, said Europol.

The operation, which also involved Estonian police, took place on 15-16 May and was the “biggest of its kind to date in Europe against such an organised crime group”, the agency said.

The group used specialised encrypted communication devices and counter-surveillance techniques to try to stay a step ahead of police, Europol said.

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