18 June 2019 - The Tax Agency intercepted a Moldovan-flagged merchant ship yesterday, containing 10 tons of hashish. As part of operation ‘Seifa’, patrol vessels 'Abanto' (based in Cartagena) and ‘Paíño’ (based in Palma de Mallorca) supported by the Tax Agency's aerial assets, boarded the 79m ELG merchant ship at 13.00 yesterday, 98 miles south-east of Cartagena.
The eight crew members of the Moldovan-flagged merchant ship were arrested in the operation. All the people arrested are of Ukrainian nationality.
The investigation has been carried out by Murcia's Customs Surveillance Unit, and coordinated by the Sub-Directorate General of Operations from the Tax Agency's Customs and Excise Duties Department, with the collaboration of French, Italian, and Turkish authorities, along with the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Intelligence Centre (CITCO) and the Mediterranean Anti-Drugs Coordination Centre (CECLAD).
The investigation began six months ago when the Customs Surveillance Maritime Intelligence Office in Murcia began to suspect the vessel, and from then on the movements of ELG were closely monitored by Customs Surveillance.
The ship was finally spotted by Customs Surveillance aerial assets yesterday, alongside several semi-rigid boats, and monitoring of ELG began. The ship was finally intercepted when attempting to flee, by the Abanto patrol vessel, 98 nautical miles south-east of Cartagena.
In the subsequent examination of the vessel, Customs Surveillance officials discovered around 350 bales of the type commonly used for hashish trafficking, weighing approximately 10,000 kilograms, in the ship's forehold.
The ELG vessel, its crew, and the drugs, were immediately escorted to the port of Cartagena by the patrol boats Abanto and Paíño, where they arrived this morning to be handed over to the legal authorities.
The Eastern Mediterranean route for trafficking hashish is commonly used to transport large quantities of the illegal substance from the coasts of North Africa close to the Strait of Gibraltar to the Eastern Mediterranean: so the routes, common transfer regions, and suspicious vessels, are subjected to coordinated monitoring by the Tax Agency's Customs Surveillance Unit and the French and Italian authorities.
In 2018 alone, six operations were carried out along this route, intercepting 37,146 kilograms of hashish resin. In April 2019, Italian authorities intercepted the Spanish sailing boat 'Luna III', containing 6,000 kilograms of hashish, in the sea off Sicily, in a joint operation in which the Tax Agency's Customs Surveillance Unit played a part. And along this same route in May the Spanish sailing boat 'Ocean Sea' was seized, transporting 5,000 kilos of hashish, and was finally transferred to the port of Ibiza.