Europol has dismantled a criminal network involved illegal firework trafficking worth over GBP 22 million with the help of German and Dutch authorities.
The two-year-long investigation uncovered a Dutch criminal network associated with large-scale trafficking of dangerous and highly explosive fireworks.
Experts from the German Regional Police (Landespolizei Osnabruck), the Dutch National Police (Politie) and the Dutch Prosecution Office of Amsterdam (Functioneel Parket) joined forces after they received intelligence from the EncroChat operation in 2020.
EncroChat was an encrypted phone network widely used by criminal networks, that was dismantled by the police the same year.
It reportedly had around 60,000 subscribers at the time of its closure in June 2020.
The police have made over 1,000 arrests all around Europe after encrypted EncroChat messages came to their attention from 22nd December 2020 onwards.
Within the current investigation, officers were able to discover the transport routes used to import illegal heavy fireworks from China to the Netherlands.
German and Dutch authorities raided several locations in the two countries in June 2022.
The sites included houses, business premises and storage facilities that reportedly were in possession of the suspects.
The investigation yielded over 350 tonnes of illegal fireworks with a market value of EUR 25 million (GBP 22 million).
Huge stocks of cash were also found by the deployed officers.
Europol claimed that the finds were kept in seven sites including bunkers, barns, businesses and containers.
These facilities not only failed to meet the strict safety requirements for the storage of such items but also posed a serious risk to the safety of the people living in the surroundings.
Detectives suspected that the explosives were used for criminal activities such as attacks on ATMs carried out in Germany.
So far a total of 11 suspects have been arrested, out of which the three main ones were caught in the Netherlands on Monday, 17th October 2022.
The other eight offenders reportedly had minor roles, such as facilitating transport, storing the fireworks or contacting potential customers.
Osnabruck Police Department spokesperson Laura Brinkmann said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “This is an extraordinary blow in the fight against the illegal trade in fireworks and pyrotechnics.
“The lengthy and international investigations have also led to the arrests of the alleged backers.”
German police claimed that the fireworks will be destroyed once the investigation is completed, while further arrests are pending.
The investigation is ongoing.