The installation of one of the largest synthetic drug laboratories in Spain has been aborted

Operation 'TOP'

In a combined operation between the Tax Agency and the National Police

  • The operation uncovered a drying machine, four chemical synthesis machines and 14,500 litres of chemical products that would have been able to create more than 1,000kg of amphetamines and MDMA, with a street value of over €5,000,000
  • In the successive phases of the operation, 16 people were arrested, and officers confiscated 90kg of cannabis in France, 145kg of cannabis and 261kg of hashish in the United Kingdom, and 199kg of cannabis in Spain
  • The international nature of the criminal organisation required the collaboration of the NCA crime agency in the UK and the Police Nationale in France

29 October 2018.- Tax Agency officers and National Police agents have aborted the installation of one of the largest synthetic drug laboratories in Spain. With the chemical products and machinery seized - a drying machine and four chemical synthesis machines - more than 1,000kg of amphetamine and MDMA could have been produced, with a street value of over €5,000,000. In the successive phases of the operation, 16 people were arrested (two in France, seven in the United Kingdom and seven in Spain), and officers confiscated 90kg of cannabis in France, 145kg of cannabis and 261kg of hashish in the United Kingdom, and 199kg of cannabis in Spain. The international nature of the criminal organisation required the collaboration of the NCA crime agency in the UK and the Police Nationale in France.

The investigation began in May 2017 when a company, which was already being investigated, sold industrial machinery that could be used in the synthetic drug production process. Once the destination of the machinery was identified, investigators discovered the existence of an international organisation dedicated to exporting narcotic substances, specifically hashish and cannabis, which would have stockpiled machinery and chemical products to create a laboratory in Málaga for the large-scale manufacturing of synthetic drugs.

A European operation with multiple executive phases

To disband the criminal network, and due to its transnational nature, the operation required the collaboration of various European police bodies, with investigative units from the National Police and Customs Surveillance.

In this context, In May this year, the British National Crime Agency intercepted a container in Liverpool coming from Spain, which contained 406kg of cannabis. The intervention saw seven members of the organisation arrested, three of whom were investigated in Spain, all high up in the criminal network.

In France, the collaboration with the Police Nationale led to the seizure of a lorry in April, transporting 1,500kg of formic acid and formamide; chemical products that are particularly important in manufacturing synthetic narcotics. In June, another lorry was intercepted carrying 90kg of cannabis among its load, resulting in two arrests.

Following multiple confiscations in Europe, investigators intensified the surveillance of the criminal organisation in Spain, and were able to seize 67kg of cannabis hidden in a lorry carrying vacuum cleaners in La Jonquera (Girona).

One of the largest cannabis seizures in recent years

At the same time, in the Málaga province, agents detected two industrial warehouses and a garage, storing 132kg of cannabis buds, 6,150 litres of chemical products used to create synthetic drugs (formic acid, formamide, sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid and methylene chloride), a large-scale drying machine, four chemical synthesis machines, various laboratory tools and documentation detailing the formulas and steps needed to manufacture certain drugs. Furthermore, 7,000 litres of hydrogen chloride were confiscated in El Prat airport in Barcelona, headed for the laboratory.

The operation, conducted over multiple phases and countries, thwarted what would have been the largest synthetic drugs laboratory in Spain, with the elaboration of more than 1,000kg of amphetamine and MDMA, which would have had a street value of over 5,000,000 euros. In total, 16 people were arrested; two in France, seven in the United Kingdom and seven in Spain.