Spain arrests British drug smuggler on top ten most-wanted fugitive list

Spanish police have arrested a suspected British drug trafficking boss who is listed among Britain's ten most wanted fugitives thought to be on the run in Spain.

Spain arrests British drug smuggler on top ten most-wanted fugitive list
Photo: Crimestoppers

Police detained Michael Roden, also known by his nickname “Dodge”, and six other suspects earlier this month in the southwestern province of Granada, a police spokesman said on Monday.

Roden, a suspected member of an organised crime group, is wanted by British police in connection with the importation of 70 kilos (155 pounds) of cannabis into Britain from Spain in 2013.

Photo: Crimestoppers

He was convicted in October 2010 in Britain of large-scale production of cannabis and jailed for three years.

Roden, who is originally from Redditch, Worcestershire was released early the following year but failed to meet his probation conditions and is wanted for recall into prison.

He is on a list of Britain's ten most wanted fugitives put together by Crimestoppers, a police-backed British charity that appeals for help in solving crimes.

Spanish police detained Roden and the six other suspects – three men and three women  – between October 4th and 11th as part of a probe into an organisation suspected of smuggling marijuana into several European Union nations, mainly Britain.

“The drugs, which was of a high quality and vacuum packed, was transported using different types of vehicles, such as campers, trucks, high-powered cars,” police said in a statement.

Police charged Roden and the six other suspects with membership in a criminal organisation, drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal arms possession and document falsification.

Police seized 30 kilos of marijuana as part of their operations as well as several guns and cars and over €85,000 ($91,500) in cash.

An estimated one million British nationals live in Spain all or part of the year, according to the British embassy.

Spain's southern Costa del Sol – once dubbed the “Costa del Crime” – has been known as a hideaway for British criminals in the past, especially in the late 1970s and 80s when there were no extradition agreements with Britain.

But the situation changed in 2004 with European arrest warrants, making it easier to bring British criminals back to face justice.

The latest arrest means that 73 out of 86 so far named on the Captura list have been detained.

Dave Allen, Head of the International Crime Bureau at the National Crime Agency, said:

“The arrest of Michael Roden marks yet another success for Operation Captura and highlights the effectiveness of the campaign in flushing out fugitives.

“We’ve caught 73 out of 86 fugitives on the Captura list and will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to find the remaining 13.”

Lord Ashcroft, KCMG PC, Founder and Chair of Crimestoppers, said: “The success of Operation Captura has been quite incredible and I commend all those at Crimestoppers, the NCA and the Spanish authorities for their tireless work in locating these wanted individuals.

“We are now down to the unlucky 13 who still remain at large, and I would ask anyone with information on their whereabouts to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 900 555 111 in Spain or 0800 555 111 in the UK, so we can bring them to justice.”

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How Barcelona is once again Spain’s pickpocket capital

The theft of a rucksack caught on camera during a TV interview has put the focus on the problem of thievery in the Catalan capital, a trend which has returned in full blast following the end of Covid-19 restrictions. 

How Barcelona is once again Spain's pickpocket capital

Anyone who’s visited or lived in Barcelona knows how important it is to keep an eye on one’s belongings, especially while on public transport or in the city centre. 

The metropolis of 5.6 million people is particularly notorious for being the pickpocketing capital of Spain.

Barcelona is in many senses a victim of its own popularity, with a study in July 2022 crowning it the most visited city in Europe this summer. 

One of the consequences of this is that Barcelona has become a goldmine for low-level criminals who not only exploit the abundance of distracted tourists exploring the city’s beautiful sights, but also the fact that Spanish law allows them to steal goods worth less than €400 and not face a prison sentence if caught.

The issue was encapsulated in near-scripted style when during a recent TV interview in which a tourist was singing the praises of the Catalan capital, a thief is seen in the background picking up a rucksack and walking away with it.

Between January and June of 2022, 36,386 hurtos took place in Barcelona, according to the Spanish government’s latest Crime Report

The word hurto in Spanish encompasses different non-violent forms of stealing other people’s property, from pickpocketing to stealing from shops or burglaries. 

This equates to 200 reported non-violent robberies a day in Barcelona.  

During the first three months of 2022, Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra wished to stress that the 17,000 non-violent robberies committed in Barcelona were “far” from the levels seen in 2019, before the pandemic’s lockdown as well as domestic and travel restrictions which resulted in fewer locals and tourists whom to rob in 2020 and 2021. 

They did however acknowledge that the data suggested that there was a return to “normality” vis-a-vis such felonies. 

As things stand, the 36,386 non-violent robberies recorded in the first half of 2022 are far lower than the 67,637 that were reported during the first six months of 2019, a record year for crime in the Catalan capital, as hurtos shot up by 40 percent compared to 2018 figures. 

But the rise has been even sharper in 2022, with a spike of 79.2 percent in the number of non-violent robberies during the first half of the year. When data for July and August is included in the next report, the increase could be even more dramatic.

Worryingly, the rate of violent crimes has also shot up by 41 percent. There have been reports in the Catalan press and videos shared online showing how organised gangs are now focusing on stealing jewellery and luxury watches from passers-by, violently yanking the items off the victims in broad daylight. 

As for burglaries, Barcelona is not the city with the highest rate of break-ins in Spain in 2022, according to Spanish insurance company Estamos Seguros, but it is the city where the value of the items stolen by burglars is on average highest. 

Pickpocketing remains the most common form of non-violent robbery in the Catalan capital however, with reoffending criminals unfazed by being apprehended by police. 

READ ALSO: How a crime wave in Barcelona is turning residents into citizen crime fighters

A change to Spain’s Criminal Code implemented in July 2022 which will see reoffending thieves who steal goods worth less than €400 stand before a judge may help quash such impunity.

It’s worth noting that non-violent robberies have increased by 51 percent on average across Spain in 2022, but Barcelona once again stands out as the city where pickpocketing and other forms of stealing is rife, higher than in other big cities such as Madrid and Valencia where non-violent theft is also an issue.