Spanish police bust huge cannabis farm

Spain’s National Police have raided a huge marijuana plantation which they believe was run by an organized crime ring in a town near Seville, after locals tipped them off about the operation.

Spanish police bust huge cannabis farm
File photo of a cannabis farm not related to the story. Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP

The finca in Morón de la Frontera 63km southeast of Seville contained over 3,000 cannabis plants as well as a “sophisticated artificial air-conditioning system which created the ideal conditions for their cultivation,” the Policía Nacional said in a press release.

Heat lamps, moisture sensors, weapons and high-end vehicles were also seized from the plot. Seven people accused of being members of the criminal organization which ran the plantation and distributed the produce have been arrested.

The raid was the culmination of an investigation which involved the collaboration of local residents, who alerted police to the possibility of an indoor marijuana farm being present on the estate.

After surveying the site, police investigators verified the existence of what they believe to be an organized criminal network led by a man who is said to have controlled the operation from his home, with marijuana the principle crop. The man is also suspected to have employed a team in charge of growing, collecting, preparing and distributing the narcotics.

Police explained that the plantation was hidden within the estate, and as such “advanced technical methods” were necessary to detect unusual sources of heat on the property which are typical of cannabis cultivation.

Five people working on the farm were arrested when it was raided, while two others were later detained. Three high-end vehicles, two shotguns and 700 shotgun shells were taken from the property, while the plantation containing more than 3,000 marijuana plants, 400 heat lamps and a sophisticated air-conditioning unit was dismantled.

The seven individuals arrested – some of whom already had a criminal records – now face accusations of drug trafficking offences, defrauding of electricity, membership of a criminal organization, illicit possession of arms and breach of sentence.

It was not a clean sweep for officers however: the leader of the organization and his partner managed to escape in a sports car following a high-speed chase from police who had attempted to arrest them. The investigation remains open as a result.

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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.