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CRIME

Spain seizes first underwater drug smuggling drones

Spanish police said on Monday they had seized six underwater drones capable of transporting large quantities of drugs from Morocco to Spain and broken up a gang suspected of manufacturing them.

submarine drones drugs spain
Three of the drones were due to be delivered to a French drug ring to "transport significant amounts of cocaine", the statement said. Screenshot: National Police

Officers seized six of the so-called “drone submarines” and arrested eight people in raids carried out in Barcelona and the southern provinces of Málaga and Cádiz, a police statement said.

Police said it was the first time they had seized such devices, which are officially known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

They believe the gang made underwater drones “capable of bearing big loads” for use by other criminal organisations.

“These devices could allow drug traffickers to transport large quantities of narcotics remotely across the Strait of Gibraltar,” the statement said.

The drones had up to 12 motors each and a range of 30 kilometres (18 miles).

That is easily enough to manage an underwater crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco which measures just 15 kilometres (nine miles).

Three of the drones were due to be delivered to a French drug ring to “transport significant amounts of cocaine”, the statement said.

The gang also built false bottoms into vehicles to allow gangs to smuggle drugs, as well as “unmanned semi-submersible vessels” that could carry up to 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) of product.

Their customers included criminal gangs in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, police said.

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

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CRIME

Spain investigates mysterious ‘needle spiking’ attacks on women in nightclubs

Spanish police are investigating a string of cases of women being injected with possibly spiked syringes in crowded clubs, following similar incidents in Britain and France. However, no chemical trace has been found yet in the victims.

Spain investigates mysterious 'needle spiking' attacks on women in nightclubs

The worrying trend of ‘needle spiking’ (pinchazos in Spanish) in bars and nightclubs that has been seen across Europe in recent weeks has reached Spain.

The strange attacks, the first of which reportedly happened in October 2021 in the Scottish city of Dundee, can cause sudden dizziness, memory loss and then, usually the morning after, bruises caused by what experts believe are needle pricks.

In Spain, the first reports of these needle spiking attacks have been in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Andalusia, Aragon and Cantabria.

The Ertzaintza (Basque police) are investigating as many as a dozen neede spikings in bars and restaurants across the northern region in the last two weeks alone, while national police in Andalusia are investigating two women claiming to have been victims of ‘chemical submission’ due to needle spiking in a nightclub in El Puerto de Santa María in Cádiz.

Catalonia and the Basque Country are the regions where the largest number of cases have been reported so far, and the complaints are familiar: young women who feel a prick or sharp pain while dancing or waiting at the bar in a cramped environment, and then feel dizzy and disorientated and have a physical injection mark on their body.

Often the needle pricks are accompanied by memory loss.

Social panic

Worrying though the attacks are, it must be noted that scientists have only detected one case in Spain (in the northern region of Asturias) where the victim’s body was found to have a toxic substance present.

The victim in question was a minor, so it is unclear if they were in a bar or nightclub at the time. The 13-year-old girl reported a sharp pain in her leg, and later tested positive for liquid ecstasy after analysis at the Cabueñes Hospital.

But this seems to be the exception.

Physical needle pricks without any chemical or toxic traces have been the case in almost every other case across Europe.

By January 2022, in Britain there had already been already 1,300 complaints about needle attacks. Of these, zero cases were confirmed with chemical evidence.

In France, of 800 or so reported needle spiking cases, not a single chemical trace was found in any of the victims tests.

In the medical analysis of Spanish victims, according to police sources, no traces of toxic substances have been found besides the single case in Dijon.

Mireia Ventura, head of analysis at Energy Control, said in the Spanish press this week that “we do not deny that there are aggressions with something sharp, but this story that they [the victims] are inoculated drugs with a syringe in nightclubs sounds fanciful to us, there are several pieces that do not fit in.”

Not a single syringe has been found on any premises nor have any culprits been identified.

None of the dozens of recent victims in Spain have tested positive for toxic substances in medical tests, nor have they suffered sexual assault, harassment or theft.

As sociologist Robert Bartholomew wrote in ‘Psychology Today’, “anyone who believes she was drugged while on the go must be taken seriously and her claims thoroughly investigated. However, a recent wave of news involving syringes has all the characteristics of a social panic.”

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