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Mega-bust points to Spain as Europe's emerging cocaine gateway

Posted on October 17th, 2017 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .

SpainSpain made unwanted international headlines Oct. 7 when nearly four metric tons of cocaine worth an estimated $260 million was seized by Spanish customs officers in the Atlantic, headed for the Iberian peninsula. The haul was found on a tugboat between Portugal's Madeira and Azores islands, with 165 packages of cocaine each weighing 23 kilograms—for a total of 3.7 tons—concealed beneath the vessel's cooking area. The operation was jointly conducted with UK's National Crime Agency under the co-ordination of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon. The crew, from Turkey and Azerbaijan, were arrested.

Authorities issued the usual triumphalist rhetoric. "Seizing this quantity of cocaine represents a major disruption to international crime groups, depriving them of revenue potentially running into the hundreds of millions of pounds," NCA spokesman Mark Blackwell told the BBC.

But this was not the first sign that Spain—long Europe's key gateway for Moroccan hashish—is now also serving as the principal transfer point for cocaine headed for the Continent from South America. And connections established between Spanish and Moroccan networks to move hashish may now be serving to smuggle coke.

On Oct. 4, authorities in Morocco announced that 13 Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin had been arrested over a record seizure of cocaine in the North African country. Police seized over 2.5 tons in the bust in the country's south, saying they believe it landed by boat from Venezuela and was destined for Europe. The suspected masterminds of the operation are two Dutch citizens of Moroccan origin currently serving sentences over a 2014 drug bust in Marrakesh, said Abdelhak Khiam, the head of Morocco's Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations.

"The networks of the South American drug cartels are currently trying to make use of the African route, via the countries south of Sahara where there is little control," Khiam told a press conference.

And the hashish busts, of course, go on. In early August, forces of the Spanish Tax Agency intercepted 600 bales—or 18 tons—of hash from a vessel east of the Strait of Gibraltar in the Alboran Sea, Maritime Bulletin reported. The vessel was taken to Almeira, Spain, and the crew—this time Ukrainians and Bulgarians—placed under under arrest.

Cross-post to High Times

Graphic: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

 

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