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Ex-footballer arrested over cocaine-laced cardboard smuggling plot in Spain

Spanish police said Wednesday that a former Real Madrid player was among those arrested when they busted a suspected international smuggling ring which infused cocaine into cardboard boxes.

Ex-footballer arrested over cocaine-laced cardboard smuggling plot in Spain
The cocaine was infused into cardboard boxes used to import pineapples and limes. Photo: Janine/Flickr

Edwin Congo and a one-time doctor to Argentine football icon Diego Maradona were arrested, along with 16 others, police said.   

The ring would conceal small amounts of cocaine — no more than 100 grammes — in the paper of each box which it then recovered “through a complex chemical process” at its labs in the Netherlands and Bulgaria, police said in a statement.   

A video released by police showed a machine crushing cardboard boxes to a pulp, which was then pressed in another container to extract the cocaine.    

Police seized one tonne of cocaine in Bulgaria in January, which the Spain-based gang is suspected to have smuggled into Europe.    

The drug was infused in over 6,600 cardboard boxes containing limes and pineapples that arrived in Greece from Colombia.

Spanish police said they were led to the ring when they started to investigate the “illegal activities” of Colombian doctor Mauricio Vergara, who owns a beauty clinic in Madrid and is famous for having helped Maradona lose weight.   

Vergara was arrested in 2002 for drug trafficking in Colombia, while Maradona has undergone rehabilitation for cocaine abuse.    

The ring is suspected of having used Vergara's clinic in Madrid as its “centre of operations,” a Spanish police source told AFP.   

Congo, who retired from football in 2009, was released after being questioned by the police.

He acknowledged having traded in emeralds with some of the other suspects but denied any wrongdoing.

“I am innocent, I have absolutely nothing to do with the sale, manufacture or anything that has to do with cocaine,” the 43-year-old Colombian told Spanish television station La Sexta on Tuesday night.

 

READ ALSO: 

Exfootballer known as 'Kokearrested in Spain for running drugs ring

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DRUGS

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.
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