Law enforcement agencies across 52 countries have detained nearly 400 people in a coordinated global crackdown on organised criminals involved in activities including drug trafficking, people smuggling, cybercrime and illegal immigration.
Organised by Europol, Operation Ciconia Alba targeted criminal networks that operate on the continent and beyond. In a series of planned actions last week, multiple agencies involved in the operation carried out raids, searches and inspections in more than 11,000 locations around the world.
The week-long effort resulted in the seizure of 2.38 tonnes of cocaine, the identification of 529 human trafficking victims and the discovery of cases of sexual exploitation at brothels, along with the arrest of 386 suspects. Officers involved in the operation said its results will be a “major blow to organised crime groups operating across the European Union and beyond”.
As well as targeting countries within Europe, the operation also helped disrupt criminal organisations with interests in locations including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Thailand, the US and the United Arab Emirates, as well as others.
The law enforcement agencies involved in the week of action concentrated their efforts on high-crime areas, such as airports, immigration reception centres, nail bars, brothels and red-light districts. In total, they searched more than 540,000 people and vehicles, seizing a relatively modest total of €181,500 in cash as they did so.
A raid on one bogus travel agency in Greece resulted in the interception of 745 trafficked migrants, while a separate swoop on a brothel in Austria led to the discovery of a large-scale cannabis growing operation. Officers immediately insisted that the premises was closed down before launching a new drugs investigation. In Ireland, police arrested three people at Dublin Airport as they searched 14 flights while looking for victims of human trafficking and passengers who booked air tickets with compromised payment card data.
“Countries and organisations across the globe working together as one entity is the modern response to borderless serious and organised crime,” Europol’s Director, Rob Wainwright, said in a statement.
“This project will… produce effects in the long-term, as over 440 new investigations have been initiated. On behalf of Europol and its staff, I would like to congratulate all parties involved in Operation Ciconia Alba.”
The operation – Europol’s annual multi-partner initiative – was officially launched back in June, and follows on from operations Blue Amber and Archimedes in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Coordinated from the agency’s headquarters in The Hague, the operation is designed to encourage Europol’s international partners to pool information and launch coordinated action such as last week’s international crackdown.