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On 9 and 10 January 2023, Slovenian police conducted the final operation of over 50 house searches in Slovenia and Austria and successfully dismantled a large criminal association with cells in Kranj and Jesenice, from where the members trafficked large quantities of illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, ecstasy), as well as grew and manufactured cannabis and amphetamine.

Slovenian police arrested 28 suspects, who were trading illicit drugs in Slovenia, Austria, and Italy, and confiscated 11kg of amphetamine, over 3,000 pills of ecstasy, large quantities of cannabis and three hundred thousand euros in cash. The investigation spanning over the period of two years was carried out in cooperation with Austrian law enforcement authorities and coordinated by the Specialised State prosecutor's office of the Republic of Slovenia.

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Press conference of 17 January 2023 about the details of the investigation with David Antolovi─Ź, Head of the Criminal Police Directorate at the General Police Directorate, Primo┼ż Dono┼ía, Head of the Criminal police Division at the Kranj Police Directorate, and Christian Voggenberger, Head of the Salzburg Criminal Police (Landeskriminalamt Salzburg).

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David Antolovi─Ź presented the results of the extensive investigation lead by criminal investigators form Kranj in cooperation with the Criminal Police Directorate and other Slovenian and Austrian criminal police units

David Antolovi─Ź said that the two-year investigation reached a successful conclusion thanks to the dedicated work of the investigators and the excellent cooperation with the prosecutors and colleagues from Austria: "This is another proof that there are no borders to international criminal investigations and police cooperation." He also underlined the uniqueness of the investigation, which required creative criminal tactics and resourcefulness of criminal investigators in gathering the essential evidence to prove the offences of the members of the criminal group. He noted that the increasingly demanding evidence gathering calls for the regulation of certain investigative measures to be updated urgently and the need to keep up with the developments in information technology.

With this investigation, we stopped a criminal group that not only sold large quantities of illicit drugs, but also manufactured several illicit substances (amphetamines and cannabis) in modified rooms of residential houses in Slovenia. To conceal the criminal activity and avoid being discovered, the suspects often were often relocating the production facilities of illicit drugs, which were mostly trafficked to Austria and occasionally to Italy. This indicates that the cannabis and amphetamine available on the Slovenian market are manufactured locally as well as intended for trafficking to other EU countries, where they fetch higher profits.

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Primo┼ż Dono┼ía presented the investigation activities of criminal investigators from Gorenjska.

Criminal investigators from Kranj had been conducting preliminary proceedings for the case since February 2021, and established that a 31-year old from the area of Jesenice had been leading a criminal association involved in international trafficking of illicit drugs and weapons.

The criminal association was trafficking cocaine from northern Europe to Slovenia as well as manufacturing amphetamine and cannabis. The leader of the association oversaw that a 29-year old from Ljubljana organised a group of persons to grow cannabis in several facilities in the area of Ljubljana. He also established cooperation with a 40-year old Serbian national, who organised for several foreign nationals residing in Slovenia to use falsified Croatian personal documents to rent residential houses across Slovenia and equipped them for growing cannabis.

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The head of the association also worked with a 34-year old Slovenian national, who resided in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time of the investigation. They shared couriers and vehicles and trafficked cannabis from Spain to Slovenia together to deliver it to other members for the purpose of street sale.

The association lead by the 34-year old also smuggled military weapons from Slovenia to Belgium, whereas one of the members (a courier) was arrested in Germany. Five automatic guns, one automatic handgun and several bullets were found in a concealed compartment of the vehicle. Following the group member's arrest in Germany, several members of the association relocated from the area of Ljubljana to the area of Salzburg in Austria.

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They were organising sales of large amounts of cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis through the 31 year-old from Jesenice and the 34-year old Slovenian national, while members of the criminal group were also involved in violent debt collection. They were planning to force one of the debtors to travel to Turkey to sell his organ (a kidney) in order to repay the debt.

The Kranj criminal investigators filed a criminal complaint against 49 persons on suspicion of 213 offences of unlawful manufacture and trade of narcotic drugs and illegal manufacture of and trade in weapons or explosive materials. The investigation helped establish that the criminal association sold 1 kg of heroin, 26 kg of cocaine, 131 kg of cannabis and manufactured and sold 34 kg of amphetamine.

A total 550 criminal investigators and police officers from Gorenjska and other police units in Slovenia and Austria were involved in the final operations against the members of the international criminal group on 9 and 10 January 2023, when 50 house searches of 28 suspects took place across Slovenia.

The house searches in Slovenia resulted in seizure of almost 11 kg of amphetamine, 3,023 MDMA (ecstasy) pills, tens of kilograms of cannabis and around 1 kg of cocaine. Rooms adjusted for cannabis production with approximately 300,000 EUR worth of growing and production equipment were found in six residential houses. At the time of the house searches, the members of the association were growing 4,894 cannabis plants. Several firearms were also found during searches: two automatic rifles (of make Kalashnikov), two handguns and a rifle. Over 300,000 EUR in cash the suspects kept in their homes were also seized as well as two vehicles with modified compartments for transport of drugs.

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28 suspects were arrested and detained, 15 taken to the investigating judge, who ordered for 14 suspects to remain detained and one to remain in house detention. A number of suspects had previously been dealt with for similar offences in their respective countries of origin.

It is estimated that the criminal association could have made 1.2 million EUR a year from cannabis production alone. The head of the association has been charged of having gained 1,050,000 EUR of illegal proceeds from the sales by the end of the investigation.

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Christian Voggenberger, Head of the Salzburg Criminal Police

Head of the Salzburg Criminal Police Christian Voggenberger presented the role of Austrian LEAs in the investigation. He described the signals based on which the Austrian police contacted the Slovenian investigating authorities and got actively involved in the investigation as well as the tactical-investigative measures (i.e. covert surveillance) undertaken during the investigation. Voggenberger also complimented the exemplary cooperation with Slovenian police and judicial authorities. Find out more: Christian Voggenberger's press statement translated to Slovenian and in German