50 arrested for trafficking hashish and cocaine via the African route

Europol supported the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and the Portuguese Judiciary Police (Policia Judiciaria) 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.

Overall results include:

  • 50 arrests
  • Seizures of almost 5 tonnes of hashish and 2 tonnes of cocaine
  • Seizure of equipment, including boats, 350HP engines, almost 4 000 litres of gasoline, vehicles, trailers, jams 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 organisation, based in Huelva and the Gibraltar area, as being involved in maritime drug trafficking throughout the Iberian Peninsula. The investigation revealed that the leaders of the organisation 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 organisations and are using their existing supply chain to diversify their drug portfolio and optimise 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.