The largest seizure of cocaine in Spain in 18 years was completed in Algeciras, with the confiscation of more than 5,800 kilos of drugs

A blow to smuggling: Operation ‘Nativity’

  • Three persons allegedly involved in the organisation have been arrested, including a member of the company responsible for importing the container carrying the drugs
  • Never before on record in Spain has there been evidence of such a large volume of this drug being transported by container and there has only ever once been a larger volume seized on the high seas in 1999
  • The Tax Agency investigation enabled the container to be located, which, according to its customs information, should have been transporting bananas from Medellín (Colombia) to El Prat (Barcelona)
  • The cocaine was found inside the container in one-kilo slabs with the typical markings used by the traffickers to identify batches destined for distribution to different destinations and organisations

5 December 2017.- The Tax Agency, in collaboration with the Spanish Civil Guards, have made the largest seizure of cocaine in Spain in the last 18 years, apprehending a total of 5,883 kilos of the drug in the Port of Algeciras. The drugs were found hidden inside a container, which according to the customs documentation, should have been transporting bananas from Medellín, Colombia to El Prat de Llobregat, Barcelona. Within the framework of this operation, to date three persons have been taken into custody: a member of the company that was importing the container transporting the cocaine and two persons of their close circle.

The operation code-named 'Nativity' began with investigations by the Customs and Excise Duties Department of the Tax Agency. As a result of the preliminary actions, the operational phase was laid out, developed by the Risk Analysis Unit (UAR) of the Algeciras Customs Office, a joint unit formed by Tax Agency customs officers and officers of the Civil Guard under the direction of the Customs Office.

Preliminary investigation

The operation was launched when the Tax Agency's Operations Office, based on information available in the Tax Agency database and other information obtained by the Tax Agency, detected the existence of a suspicious shipment. It then implemented the Agency's standard investigation techniques to determine the risk involved.

Based on this risk analysis and the commercial and naval information accompanying the shipment, a suspicious container was identified which, according to its accompanying documentation, was supposed to be carrying a shipment of bananas on the vessel 'Banak' headed for El Prat, after disembarking in Algeciras.

Once identified, the Tax Agency's Operations Office requested the Algeciras Customs Office to check the container by carrying out a physical inspection of the goods on the grounds of grave suspicions that the container could be smuggling cocaine.

The corresponding alert was received by the Customs and sent to the Risk Analysis Unit, which carried out the check and confirmed the existence of drugs in the selected container.

The inspection, which was carried out on the afternoon of 28 November in the Port of Algeciras, recorded a total of 5,883 kilos of cocaine, in one-kilo slabs, each marked with the typical markings used by drug smugglers to identify batches identified for different destinations or organisations.

A historic seizure

The seizure made in Algeciras is the largest cocaine seizure carried out by Spanish police in 18 years and is the largest amount caught being smuggled into Spain by container and the second largest in the history of drug trafficking in our country on any form of transport, second only to the seaboard seizure of 7.6 tons carried out by the National Police and Tax Agency Customs Office in 1999.

As a result of the seizure, further investigations are being carried out, led by First Instructional Court of Algeciras (Cadiz), in coordination with the Special Drugs Squad, in order to identify the ringleaders of the operation.

Arrests

To date, three people have been arrested. The head of the imports department of the banana import business transporting the container has been taken into custody. This person was also in charge of fruit purchases, sales and logistics.

A Honduran national and a Portuguese national have also been arrested, both residents in Barcelona and believed to be part of the inner circle of the imports manager with decision-making powers in terms of logistics, sale and dispatching of containers of bananas from Colombia.

These three individuals have been arrested as the alleged authors of the crime of being part of an organised crime ring, and are also charged with drug smuggling and trafficking. The investigations remain underway and further arrests are not ruled out.