Over 20 tonnes of cannabis seized after huge international operation

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© Europol.

An international operation led by Italy and closely supported by France, Spain and Europol, resulted in the discovery and seizure of over 20 tonnes of cannabis resin. The drugs were hidden in the deck of a merchant vessel called Jupiter, flying the flag of the Cook Islands. Ten Syrian citizens were arrested, while six Indian citizens were taken into custody for further investigations. All of them are crew members.

The Italian Guardia di Finanza and DCSA, closely supported by the French OCRTIS-DCPJ and CeCLAD-M, Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol, launched this sharp strike against transnational drug trafficking activities in the Mediterranean Sea.

On the evening of 26 September 2015, the vessel was located by the air and naval forces of the Italian Guardia di Finanza, assisted by a Spanish Guardia Civil aircraft. The Italian intervention teams of the Guardia di Finanza boarded and secured the vessel, escorting it to the Port of Cagliari (Sardinia).

The boarding of the vessel took place in compliance with Article 17 of the U.N. Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs of 1988.

After long and extremely complex search activities carried out by the Gruppo Operativo Antidroga, Counter Narcotics Unit of the Guardia di Finanza- Nucleo di P.T. di Cagliari, the enormous illegal load was found skilfully stashed in a large false bottom under the hold of the vessel with its only access hidden by hundreds of tonnes of granite being used as legal cargo.

French OCRTIS representatives provided on-the-spot assistance in the initial stages of the searches. Their expertise played a decisive role in the subsequent stages of the investigation, leading to the discovery of the illegal activity behind the shipment. Essential intelligence analysis services were provided through the simultaneous deployment of Europol personnel and specialist tools.

This joint operational cooperation framework facilitated the constant monitoring of the drugs shipment along its journey, enabling the most effective planning to ensure such a successful intervention.

The above mentioned law enforcement authorities have invested their resources, expertise and strengths into a coordinated and robust multilateral working model against large-scale drug trafficking across the Mediterranean Sea, alongside Europol, CeCLAD-M, MAOC-N, and other EU and Third States affected.

Europol provides continuous support to this international law enforcement partnership, triggered by the forerunner unit of the Guardia di Finanza – Nucleo di P.T. di Palermo, by facilitating the exchange of intelligence between the key countries and the subsequent criminal intelligence analysis, hosting and financially supporting operational meetings, and providing on-the-spot support. 

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