Nineteen suspects have been accused of bringing cocaine from South America and cannabis from Morocco through Spain and Portugal to Germany, a Lübeck police spokesman said on Wednesday.
Die Welt newspaper reported that the organization also ran seven secret marijuana plantations across northern Germany - in Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Schleswig-Holstein - and one on the Baltic island of Fehmarn. "They were growing around 2,000 plants," the spokesman said.
The tiny island proved to be key to the investigation. It was from there that one of the suspects, a 54-year-old man, ran a small transport company - carrying goods between Spain and Germany - which he also used to traffic marijuana. He was caught with more than two kilos of the drug in September.
Through him, the investigators were led to contacts in Hamburg, and to a German man in Spain. Three months ago, police tracked him to Portugal, where they arrested him and three other men while they were carrying 178 kilos of cocaine, worth some €9 million, from a boat to a hotel on the mainland.
Spanish and Portuguese police, as well as the German federal police, were all involved in the operation.
The investigation culminated in a mass raid on Tuesday, when around 350 police and customs officers searched 40 residences, places of business, garages, store rooms and ships across four German states - the three northern states plus Bavaria, where one of the suspects had a flat.
The officers found drugs, a rifle, a handgun, as well as several other weapons. The authorities also impounded cash and a yacht. Two of the suspects were arrested and put in investigative custody, while two others are to be formally charged soon.