Serbian at the helm of Balkan Cartel had Croatian passport: He lived luxuriously, with escort ladies
The Spanish police arrested several citizens of Serbia and Croatia in the last two years
Cocaine traffickers from the countries of the former Yugoslavia are increasingly present in Spain, the gateway for bringing that drug into Europe, because the price of cocaine increases three times if they manage to transport it from South America, the Civil Guard said.
In the last two years, the Spanish police, whose special unit deals with suppression of drug trafficking, have arrested several citizens of Serbia and Croatia in sailboats on the Atlantic Ocean, but also in luxury houses in Spain.
"Based on various investigations that the Civil Guard is working on, it is necessary to point out that the presence of members of criminal gangs from Eastern Europe, such as Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is becoming increasingly more widespread in our country," the Civil Guard announced after arresting three Croatian citizens this month, on board of whose sailboat they found a ton of cocaine, as the vessel was approaching the Canary Islands.
"Members of these gangs are in strategic places in Spain, from where they import cocaine brought to Europe in boats across the Atlantic Ocean. They are doing this from the Canary Islands, the southern Spanish coast and from Galicia," the police added.
The three Croatian citizens, Z.K. (42), M.M.B. (27) and F.S. (24), are detained on the island of La Palma after getting arrested at sea, 133 kilometers away from this island on September 9.
"They are waiting there for the trial that will be conducted by a court in Madrid," a spokeswoman of the Civil Guard on the Canary Islands said in a telephone conversation. A court spokesman did not say when the trial in Madrid would start, Jutarnji.hr writes.
"Europe has had the largest number of seizures of cocaine so far, as well as the largest quantities of seized cocaine, with more than 181 tons of the drug seized in 2018," the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said in its latest report published on Tuesday.
Escort ladies, luxury cars and apartments
In December 2018, the Civil Guard arrested Nenad Vincic, the head of a branch of the Balkan Cartel on suspicion that he, among other things, used the coast of Galicia to bring in cocaine from Colombia, the local newspaper La Voz de Galicia reported.
Colombia is one of the countries that have the most coca plants, whose leaves are used to produce cocaine.
"He was a representative of the Balkan Cartel for southern Europe. The organization had sent him to Colombia to establish contacts with direct drug distributors. After that, he settled in Barcelona, from where he controlled the entry of cocaine into Europe," the Civil Guard announced.
"He lived a luxurious life, in apartments whose monthly rent cost 5,000 euros. He drove expensive cars, was accompanied by escorts, and frequented the main casinos."
The Serbian also had a Croatian passport and sent one of his men to Galicia to secure the import of cocaine, notes Javier Romero, a journalist for La Voz de Galicia.
How the drugs got into the hands of the Balkan Cartel
"He sent his trusted man, Omar Fernando Gil, a citizen of the Dominican Republic who had been arrested in the United States for drug trafficking and who also escaped from prison. His task was to ensure the delivery of cocaine to the coast by boat, sailboat or fishing boat," Romero said, referring to a police investigation.
The police allegedly did not arrive in time to stop three sailboats loaded with cocaine.
The drugs arrived from Colombia, and local smugglers in Galicia would then hand them over to the real owners - the Balkan Cartel. The transport service was paid for in cash or drugs, and the cocaine would then be sent on to Europe.
The biggest shipments of cocaine seized in Europe were in Belgium (53 tons), Spain (48 tons) and the Netherlands (40 tons), which amounts to 87 percent of all cocaine seized in the EU. These are the countries whose ports are traditionally the main entrance to Europe. Data for 2019 has not been published yet.
The investigation that led to Vincic's arrest began in the Galician town of Pontevedri as part of an operation codenamed "Azucar Moreno" (Brown Sugar), Romero pointed out. The police then arrested 24 people in Barcelona and other Catalan towns, seizing 500,000 euros in cash and 35 expensive cars. They blocked real estate worth 20 million euros, as well as 130 bank accounts in Barcelona, Tarragona and Leida.
However, the breaking up of that criminal group did not discourage others from trying to import cocaine.
"This is an attractive business because the price of cocaine when it arrives from South America to Europe increases three times, which brings traffickers high earnings," say the Civil Guard.
In the European market, a gram of cocaine costs from 38 euros (for 23 percent purity) to 135 euros (87 percent), according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs.
This motivated the Serbian owner of the American sports sailboat "Seascape" to try to bring in 800 kilograms of the drug along with two others, a Russian and a Mexican, but they were intercepted by the Spanish police at sea near the Azores in September 2019, in cooperation with the Portuguese police, based on a report from the Serbian police.
All those seizures and arrests, it seems, have not yet threatened the market.
"Indicators point to a significant availability of cocaine on the European market and to the growth of availability in countries where that drug was not common before," said the 2020 European report on drugs.
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