In a sprawling operation involving the police forces of six countries, Europol and the Spanish National Police have seized the first known drug-running semi-submersible built in Europe.
The seizure was made as part of Operation Ferro, a large-scale law enforcement investigation targeting organized crime and drug trafficking. The operation involved a force of 300 officers in Spain alone, with support from authorities in Colombia, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK and the United States. The international aspect was coordinated by Europol.
The investigation began when authorities discovered a Spanish-Colombian-Dominican cartel with a business interest in the trafficking of cocaine, hashish and marijuana. Between April and December 2020, a number of cocaine seizures linked to this criminal group were made in Colombia, and a total of 2,900 kilos of cocaine were seized. The leader of the gang was arrested in Tarragona in November 2020, along with several accomplices.
In a series of sweeps in February, the Policia Nacional served warrants at 47 locations in 10 cities in Spain, from Barcelona to Cadiz. 52 people were arrested and two boats were seized, including a $360,000 speedboat.
During the house searches in Málaga, a semi-submersible vessel was found in a warehouse. The boat – built to a stealthy design commonly used by South American smugglers – is the first of its kind ever seized at an impromptu “shipyard” in Europe, and it was still under construction when it was found. The craft was 30 feet long, and Europol believes it would have been capable of transporting up to two tonnes of drugs.
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