European police have made more than 1,000 arrests in a ten-day, continent-wide sweep against organised crime that netted suspected people traffickers and cocaine smugglers.
Authorities seized 599kg of cocaine, 200kg of heroin and 1.3 tonnes of cannabis.
The operation was carried out in towns, airports and harbours and involved thousands of police from all 28 countries of the European Union and six non-European countries.
Police identified 200 victims of human trafficking and saved 30 Romanian minors from trafficking.
Some faced forced work in prostitution or begging gangs, Europol said.
“It’s the single largest coordinated assault on organised crime ever seen in Europe,” Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, told a news conference at the organisation’s headquarters in The Hague.
He said many of Europe’s crime groups were using the hard-to-monitor “dark net” – or encrypted internet – to communicate with each other.
“Months in the planning, it was a carefully co-ordinated series of attacks on key nodal points and crime sectors that underpin the underground crime economy in Europe,” he said.
“What we have seen emerging is an integrated underground criminal economy,” he said.
Arrests were concentrated on criminal middlemen and go-betweens, as crime kingpins are not typically caught in sweeps but in operations designed to ensnare them.Operation Archimedes resulted in 1,027 arrests being made between 15 and 23 September. The operation yielded leads that would result in further investigations and arrests, Europol said.
Mr Wainwright went on: “Operation Archimedes is a milestone in attempts by the law enforcement community to deliver concerted action against organised crime groups in Europe.
“The scale of the operation is unprecedented and the outcome, with over 1,000 arrests made across Europe, a reminder to even the most serious criminal groups that the international law enforcement community is determined to combat their illegal activities.
“This week, as EU police chiefs gather at Europol for the 2014 European Police Chiefs Convention, our focus will be on how our combined strengths can best be applied to bringing down even more of the organised criminal groups that threaten the safety and wellbeing of our society.”