Gun and drug trafficking ring busted in raids across Europe
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Croatian police on Friday said a drug and firearm trafficking ring operating across Europe had been broken by a law enforcement operation that arrested 37 people and seized drugs, money and guns in eight countries since last year.
In the final phase of the operation, raids on Wednesday in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands were carried out by police from those countries supported by European policing agency Europol and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the officials said.
The operation against the so-called Balkan Cartel followed the discovery by Croatian police of a cell of the gang in Zagreb last year, officials said. Raids also took place in Germany and Austria since Croatia began its investigation last year.
One of the 37 was Dino Muzaferović, a Bosnian who was arrested in Germany last December and transferred to Italy, where he is serving a four-year prison term for drug trafficking, Goran Laus, the head of Croatia's police drug crime service, told a news conference.
Muzaferović is believed to be the head of the cartel and has run the operation from behind bars, Laus said.
In response, Tihomir Misic, Muzaferović's lawyer in another case against him in Croatia, told Jutarnji List newspaper: "Dino has been in detention for more than a half year and is in prison abroad so it is unclear how the accusations that he run the alleged criminal organisation may stand."
No lawyer or representative of any of the other detained people was immediately available to comment.
Laus said that out of the 37 arrested, 14 were Bosnians, 11 Croats, eight Slovenians, two Serbs, one German and one Turk.
In a statement about the raids, Croatia's Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime said it had ordered the investigation of 22 accused people over criminal acts of criminal association for unauthorised production and trade of drugs, and illegal possession, manufacturing and purchase of firearms and explosives.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by William Maclean)