Police in the Canary Islands have seized close to a tonne of cocaine worth more than €40 million, in an operation launched by the Croatian police, the Ministry of the Interior said on Saturday.
The ministry said Croatian police had collected initial information about the transoceanic smuggling of large quantities of cocaine in which Croatian nationals were involved as members of the so-called Balkan cartel.
The operation to break the smuggling ring was carried out in cooperation with the Spanish Civil Guard and French customs authorities. It was also supported by Europol, the Drug Enforcement Administration – Zagreb Office, the UK National Crime Agency, Dutch police, and Bosnia and Herzegovina police.
At least three Croatian nationals were recruited by the cartel for transoceanic cocaine smuggling using a sailboat registered in Croatia and sailing under the Croatian flag.
Investigators have so far established that the Croatian nationals sailed out of the coastal city of Sibenik in early 2020 to take the African smuggling route in late August, sailing from the Canary Islands, Spain, southwards along the coast of West Africa, where local organised criminal groups, recruited by the cartel, loaded the cocaine on the sailboat.
The sailboat was intercepted by a Spanish Civil Guard team in international waters on September 8, following previous authorisation by Croatian authorities, and following an inspection, the vessel was towed into the territorial waters of the Canary Islands, where a search revealed it carried around 980 kilograms of high purity cocaine.
The street price of the shipment is estimated at more than €40 million.
According to available information, it was intended for the European, Spanish and Croatian drug markets.
The investigation into the case continues, the ministry said.