SIX Spaniards, seven French and two Moroccan people have been arrested for allegedly forming part of two criminal groups that flew large amounts of hashish into Spain by helicopter to later distribute across Europe.
The Guardia Civil carried out the operation in various phases, which began with the confiscation of a helicopter in May 2014 after it crashed and the pilot was killed.
In December another two helicopters were confiscated and four people arrested as investigations continued to identify all the members of the groups, from helicopter owners and pilots to front men and support teams on the ground.
Given the danger of the flights to and from Morocco to collect the drugs, always at night and at low altitude to avoid detection, an expert flight instructor also trained in mountain rescue in the French Pyrenees and Swiss Alps was employed to recruit and train up the pilots.
The drugs were later dropped off at hiding places on the Costa del Sol, from where they were distributed across Europe by land, the Guardia Civil reported. Meanwhile the helicopters were hidden on rented country properties between flights.
Five searches have now been carried out on properties in Malaga, Cadiz, Toledo and Madrid and members of all levels of the groups’ hierarchy arrested.
The arrestees have been charged with drug trafficking, belonging to criminal groups, illegal weapon possession and receiving illegal goods.
Amongst the items confiscated the police force listed three helicopters worth an estimated €2.5 million, 810 kilos of hashish, four cars, flight books, cash, mobile phones, night vision and navigation equipment and computers.
Investigations were directed by Estepona’s number three and four courts and carried out by the EDOA in Malaga with support from the Guardia Civil Air Service and the Sevilla Security and Reserve Group.