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Police mistake Morocco's king for people smuggler

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King Mohamed was quick to call his Spanish counterpart, the newly proclaimed King Felipe, to express his anger over the matter. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP
10:24 CEST+02:00
Spanish authorities have apologized to King Mohammed VI of Morocco after Civil Guards apprehended him while travelling by boat with his entourage in waters commonly used by human traffickers and drug smugglers.

In early August, King Mohamed was enjoying a summer break off the coast of Spain’s African enclave of Ceuta when Spanish Civil Guard sighted his two speed boats and three jet skis.

In recent years, human trafficking mafias and drug smugglers have employed both types of vessels to carry out their illegal trade without being caught, spurring the coastal guard to take action.

According to Spanish national daily El Mundo, officers ordered the vessels to stop and then proceeded to ask their occupants to identify themselves.

“Do you not know who I am?” shouted out Mohamed VI while sporting a cap and sunglasses.

The officers’ initial response was “no” but as soon as he removed his head gear one of them was able to recognize him.

No more questions were asked by the men but King Mohammed was quick to call his Spanish counterpart, the newly proclaimed King Felipe, to express his anger over the matter.

The Spanish royal, who according to the country’s Royal House “has a very good relationship with Mohammed VI”, then contacted Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz to come up with a suitable apology.

Fernández ordered his government delegate in Ceuta to send three high-command Civil Guards to head out to the royal speed boat as quickly as possible.

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They apologized profusely to the Moroccan monarch, who shook their hands and stated the officers “had done their job perfectly” but that he “hadn't been respected”.  

El Mundo quoted diplomatic sources as saying the massive influx in clandestine immigration in the days following the incident (over 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans arriving in neighbouring Melilla in just two days) may have been a direct result of relaxed border control while King Mohammed was still at sea.   

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