Joint operation by the Tax Agency, National Police and the Portuguese Judicial Police
18 November 2017.- The Tax Agency, in a joint operation with the National Police and the Portuguese Judiciary Police, has dismantled a drug trafficking organisation found trafficking bales of hash between Spain and Portugal. During the operation, the authorities seized over four tons of hash and arrested 19 individuals -14 of whom have been detained in jail- while they were using high-powered rigid inflatable speedboats to transport drugs from the west coast of Morocco to western Huelva and the Portuguese Algarve.
The investigation began when four customs officials detected the existence of a criminal organisation transporting bales of hash using high-powered rigid inflatable speedboats from the west coast of Morocco to the coast of Portugal or Spain in just a few hours. The network was led by a Spanish national and was a tightly organised ring, with an established hierarchy and specific task distribution.
In August 2016 the customs officials discovered that the traffickers had a speedboat moored in the Vilamoura Marina in Portugal. From that moment onward, the Tax Agency coordinated with the Faro Judicial Police to attempt to identify and detain all of the members of the gang.
1,979 kilos of hash in Ayamonte
Months later, the first action was undertaken in the region of Caños de Canela, in the town of Ayamonte in Huelva, where the customs officials seized 1,979 kilos of hash, in 61 bales, while the boat was moored after unloading the material from the investigated vessel into two smaller boats.
In June, the investigators received a tip that one of the drivers in the organisation had travelled to the town of Quarteira (Portugal) to prepare the boat for a drug shipment. As part of the preparations, the gang did trial runs on the open sea and filled up the boat with a thousand litres of fuel, leading the investigators to suspect that the illegal shipment would be transported in a matter of hours from Morocco to the coast of Huelva or the Portuguese Algarve.
2,100 kilos of hash and 7 arrests
Days later, the ship left the Vilamoura Marina with two crew members aboard. In coordination with the Faro Judicial Police, a police operation was launched to locate the loaded vessel, with the back-up of the Judicial Police's National Drug Squad, the Coastal Unit of the GNR and the Portuguese air force. When the boat landed on a beach in the town of Sagres (Portugal) the agents arrested seven individuals of Portuguese nationality and seized 2,100 kilos of hash, stored in bales, which had been unloaded from the boat moments before.
12 arrests, including the ringleader
Finally, the group's ringleader was arrested, along with eleven other members. In total, the operation ended in the arrest of 19 people and a total of 4,079 kilos of hash were seized. Furthermore, the materials seized include a high-powered double-outboard rigid inflatable vessel, two recreational crafts, 88,625 euros in cash, three vehicles, two outboard engines, two motorbikes, a large quantity of communication equipment, including satellite phones, two tracking and tracing beacons and bookkeeping documentation.
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