Police discover Europe's first narco-submarine linked to cocaine smuggling

Spanish police seized the vessel in Malaga as part of a series of raids with British police

Spanish police seize first ever narco-submarine made in Europe. Europol
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Police in Spain have discovered Europe's first narco-submarine following a number of raids linked to cocaine smuggling.

The half-submersible vessel was seized in Malaga during an operation to target a large scale drugs trafficking ring.

Six countries including Britain and the US took part in Operation Ferro which involved more than 300 police officers.

Almost 50 raids were carried out in the Spanish cities of Malaga and Barcelona, as well as in Tarragona, Gerona, Castellón, Valencia, Murcia, Cádiz, Granada and Badajoz.

The raids led to 52 arrests, the seizure of the narco-submarine in Malaga and a €300,000 ($358,440) speedboat in Murcia.

Police also recovered more than three tonnes of cocaine, 700 kilos of hashish and over €100,000 in cash.

"Investigators identified an organised crime group, composed of Spanish, Colombian and Dominican nationals, involved in large-scale trafficking of cocaine, hashish and marijuana," Europol said in a statement.

"The criminals were operating from Spain, specifically Cataluña. Between April and December 2020, a number of important cocaine seizures linked to this criminal group were made in Colombia. A total of 2,900 kilos of cocaine was seized."

Last November, Spanish police officers arrested the alleged ringleader of the criminal network in Tarragona and 13 of his alleged accomplices, which led to a number of raids this year to target another branch of the group.

During the house searches in Málaga, the half-submersible vessel was found in a warehouse.

The boat, which is the first ever of its kind seized on European soil, was still in construction when it was found.

The craft was nine metres long and would have been able to transport up to two tonnes of drugs.

"Similar vessels captured in the past have always been of Latin American manufacture," Europol said.

As part of the operation, four people were arrested in Tarragona and a shipment of 583 kilos of hashish on its way to France and Italy was seized.

"One of the main targets was arrested at the El Prat airport in Barcelona as he was trying to flee to the Netherlands," Europol said.

"As a result of this arrest, a warehouse was searched in Barcelona which led to the seizure of 300 kilos of cocaine.

"A clandestine drug laboratory was discovered in Barcelona next to an indoor cannabis plantation with over 1,150 plants. Some 6,000 litres of drug precursors were also seized, destined for the laboratory in Murcia.

"A 15-metre long speedboat belonging to this criminal network and loaded with 7,000 litres of gasoline was also seized in the region of Murcia."

Spanish Police and Europol were supported in the operation by the National Police of Colombia, the Dutch National Police, the Portuguese Judicial Police, the UK's National Crime Agency and US Customs and Border Protection.

The operation was co-ordinated by Europol's EU Drugs Unit and its team of specialists facilitated the exchange of information between the different countries involved, analysing the operational data to identify the main targets.