Balkans’ Biggest Drug Lords As Well As Ex Pink Panther Leader Arrested In Encrypted Phones Action

Europol have arrested three drug lords and seized more than GBP 4.3 million worth of luxury items and cash after busting the biggest drug trafficking criminal gang in the Balkans that were a major supplier in Europe.

The drug gang reportedly smuggled multi-tonne cocaine shipments from Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador to Europe, and even had logistical infrastructures for transit in West Africa.

They were reportedly very well known in the criminal underworld for their violence and involvement in high-end robberies.

The group was busted after authorities took down the encrypted communication platform Sky ECC – that they used to communicate through – in March 2021.

The joint police operation that began two years ago has now been finalised in Serbia, resulting in the arrest of a total of 23 individuals, three of which placed on Europol’s High Value Targets list.

The action reportedly kicked off with the arrest of two individuals in Serbia and Peru, while several gang members were apprehended in Belgium in 2021.

In the current raids the police caught one suspect in the Netherlands on 8th May, while 13 more group members were seized in Serbia on 11th May 2023.

Image shows the seized cash, undated photo. Europol officials arrested a total of 23 individuals from a drug gang in the Netherlands and Serbia, on May 11, 2023. (Europol/Newsflash)

Aside from the three kingpins considered the biggest cocaine traffickers in the Western Balkans, one of the arrested in Serbia was identified as a former leader of the infamous Pink Panther criminal group.

Officials revealed that a total of 35 houses were searched in the course of action.

A total of 15 high-end cars and luxury jewellery, along with watches estimated at EUR 2 million (GBP 1.7 million) were seized, claimed Europol.

Another EUR 3 million (GBP 2.6) were reportedly seized in cash.

Cops furthermore recovered two sniper rifles, three automatic rifles, guns, silencers, 24 detonator capsules and five devices for remote initiation of detonators.

About 13 packages of plastic explosives and several hundred pieces of ammunition were also among the seized items.

Image shows the seize, undated photo. Europol officials arrested a total of 23 individuals from a drug gang in the Netherlands and Serbia, on May 11, 2023. (Europol/Newsflash)

Sky ECC data linked at least seven tonnes of cocaine seized in European ports in 2020, to the cartel.

Those include a total of 700 kilogrammes (1,543 lbs) of the substance seized in the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, another 1.2 tonnes (2,645 lbs) seized in the city of Hasselt, Belgium, and five more tonnes (11,023 lbs) from Aruba, the Dutch Antilles.

Europol’s Deputy Executive Director Jean-Philippe Lecouffe said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “With over 50 countries with a permanent representation at Europol – including all the Balkan countries, Europol is the place where such a cooperation can take place.

“It is by constant sharing of intelligence and a proper coordination that we can disrupt criminal networks, dismantle their operations and make our communities safer.”