Europol has supported the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and the Portuguese Judiciary Police (Policia Judiciaria) and National Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana) in dismantling a criminal network involved in trafficking large quantities of cocaine and hashish to the European Union via the African route. The investigation also involved law enforcement authorities from France and the United Kingdom.
Altogether, the operation resulted in 50 arrests, seizures of almost 5 tons of hashish and 2 tons of cocaine, as well as equipment including boats, 350HP engines, almost 4000 liters of gasoline, vehicles, trailers, jam detectors and beacons used for tracking shipments.
The year-long investigation discovered that the criminal network had established a multi-product trafficking scheme with a two-way supply chain. This consisted of the trafficking of hashish from Morocco to South America, and cocaine back across the Atlantic and via the west coast of Africa before being transported to the Spanish mainland. The cocaine was smuggled in containers and transported using fast boats that were also used for smuggling hashish.
Initially, the investigators identified members of the organization, based in Huelva, Spain and the Gibraltar area, as being involved in maritime drug trafficking throughout the Iberian Peninsula. The investigation revealed that the leaders of the organization were also based in these two areas, while other members were operating in Morocco, Portugal and the Canary Islands. This investigation shed light on a new development: hashish-trafficking networks have established links with cocaine-trafficking organizations and are using their existing supply chain to diversify their drug portfolio and optimize their logistics in the drive for higher profits.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided continuous analytical support to the investigation. On the two action days, Europol deployed experts to Spain to cross-check operational information in real time and provide leads to officers in the field.