Spanish authorities have seized more than 1,200 kilograms of cocaine off the Canary Islands, an archipelago frequently targeted by transnational criminal groups as a starting point for cocaine shipments to Europe due to its geographic location.
Spain’s National Police, in a joint operation with the country’s Civil Guard and Tax Agency, announced on Sunday that it had intercepted a ship on the morning of September 20, while it was still some 600 miles away west of the islands, in international waters.
After investigating inside the ship, police discovered the drugs, which had originated from South America. It is presumed that the destination of the cargo was the Iberian Peninsula.
The sailboat, named “Memo”, did not carry the colors of any known state; the authorities are still unable to determine his nationality.
Police arrested the two crew members of the ship who are of Spanish and Italian nationality. The suspects, along with the ship and its illicit contents, were transferred to the port of Las Palmas, a refueling station for ships crossing the Atlantic.
Investigators are still trying to determine the identity of the transnational organized criminal group responsible for trafficking 1,200 kilograms of cocaine.
The Spanish authorities were assisted by their international partners in locating the vessel.
These include the British National Crime Agency (NCA) and French customs; as well as the Maritime Analysis and Operations Center, an international agency made up of six EU member states that coordinate intelligence in order to combat illicit drug trafficking by sea and air.
The Canary Islands are well placed to act as an intermediary for shipments to Europe either from South America or South Africa. Drugs are often brought in by large freighters and then transferred to small fishing boats, dinghies, speedboats or sailboats.
Being a major tourist destination, the archipelago is well served by air routes to Europe.
Last month, Spanish police raided a residence on islands linked to Montenegro’s famous Škaljari clan. Inside, they discovered 408 kilograms of cocaine and nearly 500,000 euros (US $ 586,000) in cash, among other luxury items and tools related to criminal operations.
It was determined that the drugs had been cultivated and processed in Latin America.
Meanwhile, in September 2020, Spanish police intercepted a separate cartel sailboat near La Palma and seized nearly a ton of high-quality cocaine, estimated at $ 47.5 million.
In all cases, Spanish police operations have benefited from the assistance of other federal police forces as well as international police agencies.