THE HAGUE, Apr 19 – Dutch and Spanish police have arrested five men suspected of being part of an international drug cartel — including two men attending a major soccer game in Barcelona, Dutch prosecutors said Thursday.,
“They are allegedly responsible for the buying, transporting and dealing in large amounts of cocaine from Africa and South America as well as money laundering,” the public prosecutor’s office said in an online statement, adding the drugs were destined for western Europe.
Spanish police pounced on the main suspect, a 43-year-old man from Suriname and a 38-year-old accomplice in Barcelona on April 3 at the request of Dutch authorities after a probe starting in 2010.
“The men travelled to the Spanish city to watch a football game between their favourite club Barcelona and AC Milan,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Two other suspects, aged 32 and 37, were arrested on the same day at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport after a flight from Spain, while a fifth man, aged 44, was nabbed at a house in the Dutch capital.
The men lived a playboy lifestyle, “travelling business class, staying in luxury hotels and were often in the company of women” while switching mobile and prepaid phones to conduct transactions.
The investigation was sparked two years ago when Dutch authorities seized more than a tonne of cocaine concealed in a container with whisky in Rotterdam’s port.
“The probe led to the smuggling of 400 kilogrammes of cocaine to Hong Kong and a haul of 1.5 tonnes of the drug in the Cape Verde,” the statement said.
Following the arrest, police raided some 20 homes in the Netherlands and Spain and confiscated paper work, computers and mobile phones.
Three men were being held in the Netherlands while the two arrested in Spain were flown to the country on Wednesday and Thursday, the statement said.
The men are to appear before a Rotterdam judge on Friday.