The Tax agency has intervened in Atlantic waters, south of the Canary Islands, a fishing boat with Panamanian flag who was carrying some 18,000 kilos of hashish, so they have detained its three crew members, of Ukrainian nationality.

The so-called operation ‘Avio’, carried out by the Customs Surveillance Service based in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, it was completed on the morning of last Saturday when the phase of exploitation with the ship ‘Sacre’, which allowed the completion of a four-month preliminary follow-up and analysis carried out by the Office of Maritime Intelligence (OIM) for Customs Surveillance in Galicia.

The operational action began last Friday, March 26, and concluded in the early hours of Saturday with the interception of the fishing vessel, named ‘Albatros Guard VSL’, when it was at about 170 miles southwest of the island of Gran Canaria, when sailing through international waters.

In the boat a significant number of hashish bales that, pending the official count and weight, could even exceed 18 tons, as reported by the Tax Agency.

Subsequently, the seized boat, guarded by the patrol boat ‘Sacre’, arrived on Sunday afternoon at the Naval Base of Las Palmas for their placing at the judicial disposition of the detainees and drugs, since on this occasion the actions have been carried out under the coordination of the Special Anti-Drug Prosecutor of the National Court and the Central Court of Instruction No. 6.

For their part, the research was carried out by the regional areas of Customs Surveillance in Galicia and the Canary Islands, with the collaboration of the Center for Maritime Analysis and Operations (MAOC-N), the Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO) and the National Directorate of Intelligence and Customs Investigations of France (DNRED). Currently, the operation and investigations remain open.

3 months of research

This investigation originated in Galicia when Customs Surveillance aerial means detected the transit through the Galician coast heading south of a 23-meter-long fishing vessel that had sailed from the port of Den Oever, in the Netherlands on December 7, 2020.

Subsequently, the investigations carried out by the analysts of the Maritime Intelligence Office of the Regional Customs Surveillance Area in Galicia allowed the ship to be identified as suspicious due to its characteristics, age, its recent sale and registration, as well as its absence of fishing gear which indicated that fishing would not be their main activity.

This led to the vessel being considered of special risk and proceeded to its control by the IOM of Galicia and the Canary Islands, as well as by the Central Customs Surveillance Services in Madrid.

In this way, the maritime intelligence offices monitored the target for the following months, This culminated in the planning from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria of the operation to board and intercept them, which was completed on Saturday.

‘Deep draft’ operation

This is another anti-drug operation of “great depth” in the Canary Islands after the apprehension at the end of 2020 of the tug-type vessel ‘Cyklo 1’ in operation ‘Gigante’, with a quantity of hashish intervened that also reached 18,000 kilos of hashish.

Both operations are part of the ‘Nautilus’ device, a national project planned by the Deputy Directorate of Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency within the activities foreseen in the different action plans for the years 2020-2021 and whose purpose is the creation of maritime intelligence to detect possible suspicious vessels and initiate the corresponding investigations for the repression of illicit drug trafficking by sea and the dismantling of the criminal organizations responsible for these actions.

Finally, they emphasize that in this device the offices of Maritime Intelligence of the Customs Surveillance Service, created in 2018 and in operation the following year, which has been “very decisive” in the ‘Gigante’ and ‘Avio’ operations, and previously in the ‘Goleta’ operation, which in September 2020 led to the simultaneous boarding with air-naval surveillance means Customs of four sailboats of the same organization with 35 tons of hashish.

The guidelines of the Annual Tax and Customs Control Plan for the year 2021 attribute to the IOM an important role in the strategy of the Department of Customs and Special Taxes of the Tax Agency in the fight against drug trafficking by sea.