Hashish raids: Scores of police officers swoop on smugglers in southern Spain

Over 300 police officers swooped on Wednesday against hashish smuggling in southern Spain, the main gateway into Europe for the drug, the latest in a string of police stings in the region.

Hashish raids: Scores of police officers swoop on smugglers in southern Spain
Illustration photo: AFP

Over 20 people were arrested during the raids carried out in several provinces in Andalusia, a spokesman for Spain's Guardia Civil police force said.

Several boats suspected of being used to ship hashish to Spain from Morocco were seized, mainly in the region bordering the Guadalquivir river, which is navigable from the Gulf of Cadiz to Seville, he added.

In a separate operation carried out on Tuesday, Spanish National Police arrested 15 people suspected of belonging to a group based in the southern city of La Linea de Concepcion that provided fuel and food to smugglers who use speedboats to move hashish from Morocco to Spain's southern coast.

La Linea, an underprivileged city with high unemployment at the edge of the Strait of Gibraltar which separates Andalusia from Africa by just 15 kilometres (nine miles), is the epicentre of the hashish trade.

It is part of the province of Cadiz, which accounted for over half of the 335 tonnes of hashish seized in Spain in 2017, according to the last available figures.

 Increased raids

Police have increased their raids against suspected drug traffickers in the area recently because they “are collecting the fruits of investigations” they launched in some cases several years ago when gangs began operating in an increasingly brazen manner, said Ricardo Magaz, a criminologist at Spain's UNED university. 

Traffickers bring consignments of drugs onto the beach in the area, often in broad daylight, and police and other authorities have been physically attacked, such as in February 2018 when members of a drug smuggling gang attacked a hospital in La Linea to free one of their members who was injured in a police chase.

Authorities also became alarmed by signs that local gangs were establishing links with foreign mafias and Madrid responded by sending police reinforcements to the region.

Earlier this month, the interior ministry announced it had ended an investigation it opened in 2016 by smashing a drug smuggling gang which included members of the Italy's 'Ndrangheta organised crime group.

Luxury cars, music videos

Two members of “Los Castanas”, thought to be the largest hashish smuggling ring in the Strait, were part of this gang.

The operation follows the arrest last year of two brothers who led “Los Castanas”. 

These police operations have weakened the drug smuggling gangs and prompt some of them to betray each other, said Magaz.

The crackdown has been aided by carelessness on the part of the local traffickers, who often show off their new-found wealth by driving luxury cars or appearing in music videos.

But Mugaz warned that the authorities can't declare victory because as soon as a drug baron is arrested “there is a replacement, or a neighbouring clan or rival takes over his activities”.

Traffickers are now spread out throughout Andalusia rather then being concentrated in Cadiz province, a Civil Guard source said.

The pressure which police have put on traffickers in the La Linea and the surrounding area known as the Campo de Gibraltar “has caused criminal groups to try to leave the Campo de Gibraltar and associate themselves with organisations in other places,” the source added.

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Spanish police make ‘biggest ever haul of synthetic drugs’

Spanish police said Friday they had seized a record 827,000 ecstasy tablets as well as other narcotics in what they called "the biggest ever seizure of synthetic drugs" in Spain.

Spanish police make 'biggest ever haul of synthetic drugs'
Police claim the seizure is the biggest in Spanish history. Photo: Guardia Civil and the National Police
In a joint operation, the Guardia Civil and the National Police smashed “the main international criminal organisation behind the production and supply of most of the synthetic drugs in Spain”, they said in a joint statement.
Synthetic drugs are manufactured using man-made chemicals rather than natural ingredients.
Eleven people were arrested on charges of drug trafficking and belonging to a criminal organisation, including the organisation's Dutch boss.
As well as the ecstasy tabs, police also seized 76 kilos (167 pounds) of speed, 39.5 kilos of crystal meth and 217 litres of liquid amphetamine with which they could have produced 738.5 kilos of speed.
They also impounded almost 400 kilos of hashish and marijuana which they were to have exported to The Netherlands to pay for the purchase of the necessary substances to manufacture the drugs at two labs in Barcelona.
The organisation included traffickers from Spain, The Netherlands, Romania, Colombia and Italy and had bases in Barcelona, the southern city of Malaga and the island of Ibiza, all of which are known for having a vibrant nightlife and many dance clubs.
Although Spain is considered one of the main drug gateways to Europe, seizures of synthetic narcotics are uncommon as most traffickers usually deal in cannabis and cocaine.