Gardaí involved in massive international operation focused on organised crime

2.38 tonnes of cocaine have been seized, 529 human trafficking victims identified and 386 individuals have been arrested following a week-long international operation carried out in over 11,000 locations worldwide.

As well as this €181,550 was seized.

Fifty one countries and four international organisations teamed up with Europol to deliver a major blow to organised crime groups operating across the European Union and beyond.

The Global operation Ciconia Alba is said to have delivered a major blow to organised crime.

The operations focused on disrupting the most dangerous criminal networks currently active including facilitated illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking and cybercrime.

Field law enforcement officers were supported 24/7 from an operation coordination centre located at Europol's headquarters in The Hague.

In one case, Austrian authorities discovered a cannabis plantation while performing checks at a brothel to identify potential victims of sexual exploitation.

The officers ordered the closure of the premises, which was being run as an illegal brothel, and a new investigation was initiated.

In another case, Europol was able to establish links between a payment card fraud case and a case on facilitating illegal immigration.

This information was forwarded to colleagues from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) based at an airport in Athens, Greece.

Following the lead provided by Europol, the officers intercepted four irregular migrants who were intending to travel to Italy. Four forged passports and four fraudulently-purchased flight tickets to Italy were found on them, and the individuals were arrested.

Also, a fake travel agency was discovered in Greece that was facilitating the trafficking of human beings and illegal immigration. The successful result was based on analysis of Europol information, notifications from airlines and the proactive approach of Greek police.

In addition, intelligence collected during the operations triggered the initiation of 449 new investigations.

Director of Europol Rob Wainwright said: "Countries and organisations across the globe working together as one entity is the modern response to borderless serious and organised crime. As an immediate result, some 386 suspects have been arrested"

24 non-EU countries were involved in the operation including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Thailand, USA and the United Arab Emirates as well as others.

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