Over a tonne of cocaine has been seized in Switzerland and Hong Kong in a trans-European police operation targeting a Balkan drug network.
The “Familia” operation, coordinated by Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Agency, carried out the massive seizure on May 16, but details were only released on Thursday.
Swiss police were heavily involved: of the tonne of cocaine recovered, 603kg was found packed in suitcases on a private jet at Basel airport. Two million euros in cash and one million of luxury goods was also seized.
According to the French police, who worked with their Swiss counterparts, the jet came from Uruguay and stopped over in Nice before landing in Basel.
Three men – a Croat, a Czech, and a Montenegrin – were arrested in the north-western Swiss city and remain in preventative detention.
The international operation was instigated by Croatian police, who suspected a vast project of cocaine-smuggling from South America run by a Balkan criminal network. The police operation involved authorities in 14 countries and led to 16 arrests in total – mainly Czech, Croatian, and Serbian citizens, according to the Basel public prosecutor’s office.
“It is probably the biggest ever seizure of cocaine from an air transport route in Europe,” the office told the Keystone-SDA news agency.