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CRIME

Spain busts drug ring led by British ex-marine

Spanish police said Monday they had broken up a hashish smuggling ring with the arrest of 10 people including its suspected leader, a former British marine.

Spain busts drug ring led by British ex-marine
Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Officers arrested the suspects last week in the southern provinces of Cádiz and Málaga as well as in Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta, the National Police said in a statement.

Among those arrested was the alleged leader of the ring, a former British Royal Navy marine “with extensive nautical knowledge” who is suspected of transporting the drugs by sea.

The unidentified man, who lived in a “luxury complex” in Cádiz, had “ties with criminal organisations in European nations such as Britain and Ukraine,” where the ring sent its drugs.

He owned several firms which allegedly sold and rented boats that he used to transport the hashish as well as shell companies to launder the money earned from drug smuggling, police said.

Police seized a sailboat and two yachts as well as 1.6 tonnes of hashish as part of the operation, which was carried out in cooperation with Britain’sNational Crime Agency.

Spain’s close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine-producing region, and its proximity to Morocco, a major hashish
producer, have made it a key entry point for drugs bound for Europe.

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SPANISH POLITICS

Spain’s PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Pedro Sánchez received a booby-trapped letter last week which was "similar" to one which exploded Wednesday at Ukraine's embassy in Madrid, whilst two other explosive packages have been sent to other key locations in Spain.

Spain's PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Security staff carried out a “controlled explosion” of the mailed item, whose “content was similar” to that found in other letters sent to the Ukrainian embassy, an air force base, the defence ministry and a military equipment firm.

The envelope, “containing pyrotechnic material” and addressed to Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, arrived by regular mail on November 24th, the interior ministry said in a statement.

On Wednesday the security officer at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid lightly injured his hand while opening a letter bomb addressed to the Ukrainian ambassador, prompting Kyiv to boost security at its embassies worldwide.

Spain’s High Court has opened a probe for a possible case of terrorism.

Later in the evening, a second “suspicious postal shipment” was intercepted at the headquarters of military equipment firm Instalaza in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, the interior ministry said.

Experts carried out a controlled explosion of that mailed item as well.

Instalaza makes the grenade launchers that Spain donates to Ukraine.

Earlier Thursday, security forces also detected a “suspect envelope” at an air base in Torrejón de Ardoz outside of Madrid which is regularly used to send weapons donated by Spain to Ukraine.

Police were called to the base “to secure the area and investigators are analysing this envelope” which was addressed to the base’s satellite centre, the interior ministry said.

“Both the characteristics of the envelopes and their content are similar in the four cases,” it said in a statement, adding police had informed the National Court of the four incidents.

A fifth envelope with “explosive” arrived at the defence ministry in Madrid on Thursday morning, a defence ministry source told AFP.

Experts blew up the package at the ministry, the source added.

‘Terrorist methods’

Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, appeared to blame Russia for the letter bomb that arrived at the embassy.

“We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country,” he said during an interview late Wednesday with Spanish public television.

“Russia’s methods and attacks require us to be ready for any kind of incident, provocation or attack,” he added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered the strengthening of security at all Ukrainian embassies, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday after the letter bomb went off at the embassy in Madrid.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February in what it calls a “special military operation”, which Kyiv and the West describe as an unprovoked land grab.

In addition to sending arms to help Ukraine, Spain is training Ukrainian troops as part of a European Union programme.

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