An international drug ring with links to at least 20 countries across several continents has been uncovered by the Norwegian state police KRIPOS, in cooperation with security services around the world.
Reports in newspaper Aftenposten show that KRIPOS has worked with counterparts in several countries to disrupt the operation of the drug smugglers. The key protagonists in Oslo, who use a series of code names to conceal their identities, are believed to be failed, pending or successful applicants for asylum, mostly from Nigeria and west Africa, working in cooperation with others primarily in Europe and South America.
Norwegian arrested in Peru
The operation’s starting point was the arrest of a 34-year-old Norwegian woman in an airport in Lima, Peru, who was found to be carrying three kilos of cocaine. During a case that resulted in a six-year prison sentence, the woman revealed that the drugs were on route to Norway.
With the help of Interpol, authorities in Norway soon linked the case to a man known as “Success,” operating in Oslo, and launched “Operation Lima” in response. Using telephone tapping to record over 7,500 conversations and street-level surveillance, the police soon learned of several key actors working in the country.
The police sat on this information while they waited for a large shipment to incriminate the suspects and soon found two on their way to Oslo during June 2010 – one via Spain, Denmark and Sweden, and the other through the Netherlands and Sweden.
Starting in Spain, one 24-year-old Polish man apparently swallowed as many as 100 10-gram capsules of heroin in order to hide them en route via Copenhagen and Malmo to the Swedish city of Gothenburg, where he was taken into custody. At the same time, a 29-year-old German-South African man was also caught travelling to Oslo by way of Gothenburg, this time from the Netherlands, carrying another one-and-a-half kilos of cocaine. Swedish police would also arrest a 27-year-old Ukrainian woman in Stockholm, who was discovered carrying two kilos of cocaine from Brazil concealed in the frame of placards of famous footballers.
In Oslo, police took the opportunity to raid several targets. Eventually, seven kilos of pure cocaine would be found, along with one kilo of heroin and 20 kilos of impure substances. Ten arrests were made across Sweden and Norway at that point, including the man known as “Success,” with many more since also taken into custody.
Prostitute turned money-laundress
The wider global scale of the case was only fully appreciated later last year, when a 35-year-old Nigerian woman was sentenced to two years in prison for money laundering from Norway. She had sent money to members of the drug ring all over the world, including the Norwegian national originally arrested in Peru. She was working for “Success,” and between August 21 2009 and October 23 2010 laundered around NOK 2.5 million (over US$400,000) in 90 small payments to people in countries in North America, Europe, Africa and South America. A prostitute, the woman apparently needed the money after becoming pregnant, in order to substitute for her usual source of income.
Most of the suspects arrested inside Norway are believed to be Nigerians who are, have applied to be, or have been rejected as asylum seekers. Identifying those involved has often been difficult, and the task of pinning code names to actual people has further affected the progress of the case. Letters of request regarding suspects have been sent to Brazil, Germany, Hungary, Peru and Spain thus far.
The cases are expected to be heard in the Norwegian courts during the summer.