Spanish police have busted a drug ring suspected of using speedboats to smuggle large amounts of cocaine and hashish from Morocco to southern Spain, the European Union policing agency said Friday.
Officers from Spain’s Guardia Civil police force arrested 17 people earlier this week as part of the operation, including the suspected leader of the organisation, Europol said in a statement.
He “is believed to be one of the major importers of cocaine and hashish from Morocco to the Iberian Peninsula,” it said.
Eleven of those arrested were Spanish nationals and the rest Moroccans.
The group is believed to have used speedboats to ferry drugs from Morocco across the Mediterranean to southern Spain, and from here to the rest of Europe.
It is suspected of laundering the proceeds from drug sales by buying property and running “several cash-intensive businesses such as two restaurants in Barcelona,” the statement said.
The authorities seized assets worth over 6.0 million euros ($6.8 million) as part of the operation, including 26 cars, eight properties and 10 luxury watches.
The authorities suspect the gang was behind two attempts to smuggle 4.3 tonnes of hashish and 1.3 tonnes of cocaine to southern Spain earlier this year which were thwarted by police.
Officers from the Belgian Federal Police and France’s Gendarmerie took part in the operation, with Europol providing operational coordination and easing the exchange of information.
Spain’s physical proximity to Morocco, a major hashish producer, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine-producing region, have made it a key entry point for drugs bound for Europe.