A sailboat carrying 2,500 kilos of cocaine bound for Spain was intercepted in the north of the Azores

By means of a device carried out at sea and on land, the two crew members of the boat and three other people living in Malaga towns have been detained, among which is the leader of the group.

The boarding, carried out by a dam crew of the Customs Surveillance ship ‘Petrel’ of the Tax Agency, with the support of National Police agents, has been extremely dangerous, given the adverse weather conditions and the state of the sea in the zone

On the day of the boarding, an identified group of Arousan boatmen had their logistics ready to collect the cocaine from the “Goldwasser”


Agents of the National Police, in a joint operation with the Tax Agency, and in collaboration with the British NCA, the MAOC (Center for Analysis and Maritime Operations in Drug Trafficking), OFAST France, DEA, DIRAN Colombia and the Netherlands Police , have seized 2,500 kilos of cocaine that was transporting an intercepted sailboat to the north of the Azores Islands after a collision carried out by agents of the National Police and an assault crew of the Customs Surveillance ship ‘Petrel’ of the Tax Agency.

The operation, called ‘Midas-Ballestrinque’ has allowed the dismantling of a smuggling organization based in the area of ​​the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar. By means of a combined device at sea and on land, the two crew members of the boat have been arrested, as well as three other people in Malaga towns, including the leader of the group.

Agents of the National Police began the investigation at the end of 2019, as a result of the intelligence work carried out around the port infrastructures, thus, individuals previously investigated for their connection with the maritime transport of cocaine through boats were detected, mainly sailboats.

The investigations led to the knowledge of the existence of a criminal organization based in the Campo de Gibraltar and Costa del Sol dedicated to the introduction of significant quantities of narcotic through boats. The organization was being investigated by both the Tax Agency and the National Police, which led the CITCO to agree on a joint investigation by the Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency and the National Police in Malaga and the Canary Islands.

Deployment on land and sea

At the beginning of the operation, various breakdowns on the initially chosen boat forced the criminal organization to get another sailboat that was in optimal navigation status for the operation they were going to carry out, forcing them to acquire in the Canary Islands a sailboat, named ‘Goldwasser’, which left for the Caribbean.

The development of the investigation pointed out that, at a given moment, the ship would have loaded cocaine and began the return journey to introduce the merchandise into our country. For this reason, authorization was requested from the flag country of the suspicious vessel (Germany) through the CITCO (Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime) to proceed with its boarding before the drug could be transferred to another vessel.

The boarding was carried out on October 8 by the assault crew of the Special Operations Ship of the Customs Surveillance Service ‘Petrel’ some 480 miles north of the Azores Islands, in international waters.

The meteorological conditions in which it was carried out were extremely adverse and the moment of boarding had to be delayed due to the fact that the North Atlantic was affected by hurricane ‘Sam’, category 4 and with waves of more than 9 meters. Finally, the boarding was carried out and there was no resistance from the sailboat’s crew. On board were the two members of the organization who were arrested. The ‘Petrel’ then started towing the ‘Goldwasser’ and headed for the port of Vigo, where it docked today.

Simultaneously with the boarding of the sailboat, there was the arrest of three members of the organization, including its head, as well as the search of their homes in the Malaga towns of Mijas and Fuengirola. In the records, 34,600 euros in cash, a pistol, mobile phones that they used for their communications, a motorcycle and three high-end large-capacity vehicles were seized, as well as various documentation for study and analysis.

Organization activity

The smuggling organization was made up of foreign nationals, all of them with backgrounds related to drug trafficking. Those investigated, who were not known for any legal work, developed a standard of living not in line with their income, handling large sums of cash and spending large amounts on leisure activities, travel and accommodation.

The organization opted for sailboats for this transport, since they have very specific and specific characteristics, both in terms of loading and masking their activity. As they are commonly used on transoceanic crossings, from Spain to the South American continent and vice versa, their movements can be less suspicious and easily navigate and stock up.

It should be noted that, as has been observed in recent times, the Galician drug carriers have transferred part of their criminal action to the Costa del Sol, a place where they have built close ties with other organizations. This is how the investigation has made it possible to specify how arousano boatmen would have contracted in Marbella the delivery of part of the transport of the narcotic, which housed the GOLDWASSER, to the Galician coast, where a portion of the merchandise would be cooled, until delivery to the final recipients .

Experts in navigation under extreme conditions

The organization had experienced individuals dedicated to skip sailing in adverse weather conditions, having carried out the transport during a dangerous gale in the Atlantic Ocean, a fact that jeopardized the success of the operation. 

As in other investigations, it has been possible to verify how the organization used and took advantage of recreational maritime traffic between Europe and the Caribbean islands, in whose shadow, navigation experts have tried to take advantage of extremely dangerous weather conditions to try to avoid the action of the security forces.

On the other hand, the members of the organization had great mobility that made it difficult for the Customs Surveillance investigators of the Tax Agency and the National Police to analyze their activity. 

The sailboat, along with the seized drug and the two detained crew members, have been transferred to the port of Vigo due to its greater proximity to the boarding point, although the investigations have been launched from the Court of Instruction No. 4 of La Línea de la Conception

It is the fourth criminal organization dedicated to the introduction of cocaine into Spain, dismantled since July on the Costa del Sol. Together, these four organizations have seized three and a half tons of cocaine hydrochloride.×For more information, contact the Press Office of the Gener