THE Guardia Civil announced on January 14 that 20 members of a criminal gang have been arrested in Cadiz, Malaga and Sevilla for smuggling hashish between Morocco and Spain using a helicopter.
Operation TELOS, which began in 2013, aims to fight the illegal drug trade by monitoring coastal areas using land, air and sea assets.
As part of that operation, the Guardia Civil detected a light, single motor Alouette II helicopter flying between the two countries at night, without lights, and at an unusually low altitude.
The suspicious vehicle was tracked to its final destination, a farm in the Parque Natural Los Alcornocales Cadiz, where it was intercepted.
Officers of the Guardia Civil found 615 kilos of hashish inside the helicopter, which had been specially modified with ´wire baskets´ on the exterior, enabling it to carry more of the illegal substance. The experienced Ukrainian pilot was detained, as well as his co-pilot and a third person who was waiting to receive the hashish.
This successful bust triggered a second phase of the operation, and led to the further arrests of 17 people, after other homes and farms in Andalucia were searched. Reports suggest that six cars, a stolen SUV, guns and ammunition were seized by the authorities.
A similar light helicopter was also found on one of the properties. The vessel, which was buried several meters below the ground to avoid detection, appeared to have been damaged in an accident.
Since Operation TELOS began more than four tons of hashish have been seized, 30 arrests have been made and 12 aircrafts have been intercepted.