Major drug operation dismantled
International drug trafficking and money laundering network dismantled
In total, 40 suspects were arrested in Spain, Morocco and Germany, and more than € 13 million in cash, almost 4 tonnes of cocaine, 18 luxury vehicles and 3 boats were seized. The cocaine seized is worth more than € 103 million in the Spanish market. Part of the cocaine seized in Spain was destined for the UK and the Scandinavian countries.
An international operation led by the Spanish Guardia Civil, and supported by Europol and Eurojust, has resulted in the dismantling of an international criminal organisation dedicated to large-scale cocaine trafficking and money laundering. The investigation, which was carried out in different phases, also saw collaboration between the United States DEA, the German Customs Investigation Bureau (ZollKriminalamt, ZKA), the German Police, the Italian Carabinieri and the Moroccan DGST.
Suspicous boat led to discovery
The investigation began in 2016 when the Spanish Guardia Civil detected the existence of a group trafficking drugs in sailing boats from the Spanish city of Denia. Investigators intercepted one of these sailing boats containing 400 kg of cocaine at the Port of Cádiz in southern Spain. The cocaine was hidden in a false bottom in a watertight area of the boat’s bow.
Further investigations revealed the existence of an international criminal group dedicated to large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering that was being managed from Venezuela by a Spaniard who is currently wanted under an international Search and Arrest Warrant. The group had established two large criminal structures in Spain. One, based in Pais Vasco, was dedicated to smuggling cocaine by sea from Venezuela to Spain using sailing boats. The other one, based in Melilla, was in charge of collecting the illicit profits obtained from selling the cocaine on Spanish territory, and sending them to Venezuela using different modi operandi.
Close cooperation with Spanish DEA
The main person responsible for collecting the illegal profits in Spain was identified thanks to close collaboration with the DEA office in Madrid. He had been sent from Venezuela to Spain to manage the collection of the money, in collaboration with the Melilla cell. Based near Madrid, he acted as a businessman dedicated to the purchase of wooden furniture in Spain to legally export it to Venezuela in shipping containers. The money was smuggled inside the furniture, hidden in false bottoms in high-value denomination banknotes, mainly € 200 and 500. Thanks to the investigations, one of these shipments was located in the province of Valencia (Spain), and more than € 8 million in cash was seized.
© Europol / Norway Today