Croatian narco boss arrested in Istanbul


Europol supported an investigation involving Croatian, German, Spanish and Turkish law enforcement authorities into large-scale cocaine trafficking as part of the Operational Taskforce Balkan Cartel. The operational activities led to the arrest of a Croatian high-value target, who was intercepted last week in Istanbul (Türkiye). 

The suspect is believed to be in charge of a major drug trafficking organisation importing cocaine from South America to Europe. In addition to drug trafficking, the individual is suspected of being behind a number of other criminal activities, including violence and attempted murder. 

He is also connected to the orchestration of a one-ton shipment of cocaine to Europe, seized in Spain in 2020. The following day, in the framework of a national investigation, Turkish authorities arrested another EU High Value Target on a money laundering charges.

The suspect was a high-value target sought by Croatia and Germany. The investigation, carried out in the framework of Europol’s Operational Taskforce (OTF) ‘Balkan Cartel’, marked a successful cooperation between the involved EU Member States and Türkiye in targeting and bringing down this criminal organisation.

The arrest of the Croatian kingpin is the result of operational activities supported by Europol in early October, involving law enforcement authorities from Croatia and Germany. 

The action day on 11 October led to:

21 arrests (12 in Split, Croatia and 9 in Germany); 

the seizure of 8 vehicles;

firearms (rifles, machine guns, ammunition and silencers);

large amounts of money, drugs, mobile phones and various types of documentation.

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and continuously provided the investigation with analytical support. The development of operational intelligence revealed an extensive, covert network operating across continents and countries.

Operational Taskforce targets Balkan Cartels  

The takedown of encrypted communication tools used by criminals has given international law enforcement an unprecedented insight into criminal networks and how they function. One trend that emerged was the important role played by criminal networks largely composed of nationals from countries in the Balkan region, in the global cocaine trade.

Europol created the Operational Taskforce Balkan Cartel to respond to this threat. Led by members with close ties to the region, the Operational Taskforce brings together Balkan, EU and global countries, to effectively target these criminal networks.

Participating authorities:

Croatia: Croatian National Police Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime; Service in Split and Croatian Drug Crime Service (Policijski nacionalni ured za suzbijanje korupcije i organiziranog kriminaliteta; Služba u Splitu i Služba kriminaliteta droga);

Germany: Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt); 

Spain: Civil Guard (Guardia Civil);

Türkiye: National Police; Counter Narcotics Department/Istanbul Narcotics Division (Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü Narkotik Suçlarla Mücadele Başkanlığı/ İstanbul Narkotik Suçlarla Mücadele Şube Müdürlüğü).