Sailboat carrying 1,850 kilos of cocaine intercepted off the coast of the Canaries

Joint operation by the Tax Agency and the National Police

  • The 3 members of the crew were arrested, two French citizens and Briton 
  • The sailboat belonged to a criminal organisation specialised in chartering this type of boat, and either transporting the smuggled drugs directly to the port, or transferring them to other boats for subsequent storage in illegal hideouts

24 June 2018.- In a joint operation, the Tax Agency and the National Police have intercepted a sailboat off the coast of the Canary Islands carrying 1,850 kilos of cocaine. The three crew members aboard were arrested, two French citizens and one Briton.

The operation, dubbed 'GRU' began in 2015, when the Tax Agency's Customs Surveillance team and the National Police began investigations into a criminal organisation suspected of trafficking narcotics by sea using sailboats.

The modus operandi consisted of chartering pleasure crafts and using them to either transport the drugs directly to Spanish ports concealed inside specially designed compartments, or to transfer the drugs onto other boats out at sea for subsequent smuggling into Spain. The drugs were then stored in 'hideouts' until their distribution on the black market.

Within the framework of operation GRU, an international collaboration with the British authorities (NCA) and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (MAOC-N), with the support of the Centre for Intelligence against Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO) and the Ministry of Defence, the team detected a possible transportation of drugs aboard a vessel of unknown name, headed towards the coasts of Spain, where the goods would be transferred to another boat.

At first, the suspicion was that the drugs were being transported by a boat that had received the drug haul off the coast of Surinam. However, the investigation subsequently pointed to a transfer of the drugs to another vessel, also a sailboat of unknown name, located approximately 300 miles off the coast of the Canaries and headed for the archipelago.

Intercepted by Tax Agency patrol ship 'Petrel'

Once the naval air operation was set up and the Tax Agency patrol ship 'Petrel I' was sent to the area, with the support of the Spanish air force, the investigators confirmed the presence of a 12-metre white sailboat in the indicated location.

Finally, in the early hours of 20 June, approximately 240 nautical miles west of the Canary Islands, the 'Petrel' boarded the sailboat 'Pepper Sauce', which was flying a British flag, and the three crew members were arrested. Inside the sailboat, 61 bales of cocaine were found, with a total weight of approximately 1,850 kilos.

After obtaining the pertinent court order, the sailboat was towed by the 'Petrel' and arrived at the port of Las Palmas this morning, where the detainees, the drugs and the boat were handed over to the court authorities.

The Department of Drug Prosecutions filed the corresponding charges and the investigation has been placed in the hands of the Central Court of Instruction no. 6 of the National High Court of Spain. The operation was carried out by the crew members of the 'Petrel', the Regional Operations Branch and the Tax Agency Customs Surveillance Team in Asturias, together with the Central Drug Squad of the Spanish National Police, with the support of the NCA, the MOAC-N, the CITCO and the Ministry of Defence.