Spanish police smash country’s largest hash-smuggling ring

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Guardia Civil
Some of the seized items

THE largest hashish-smuggling gang in Spain has been taken down following a 15-month operation, with 19 arrests and 13 tonnes seized.

Investigators have taken possession of six properties in Algeciras and La Linea de la Concepcion alongside three shotguns, three pistols, €20,000 in cash and eight high-end SUVs in a joint operation between the National Police and Guardia Civil.

The sting comes after a long-term stakeout in the Campo de Gibraltar during which ringleaders of the group, run by a kingpin known as ‘Messi,’ were identified in early 2016.

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Transporting hundreds of kilos of hash from Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar in high-powered dinghies, the gang made regular landings in Malaga and Cadiz provinces, where the drugs were transferred into stolen 4x4s before being distributed by independent, highly-organised cells.

Several boats were typically dispatched at once, arriving at separate points along the coast under cover of darkness in a coordinated exercise designed to fool police and resulting in a number of high-speed chases.

Messi himself fled to Morocco in January this year after becoming suspicious following a number of failed police raids during which two officers were shot.

However, he returned in March to take in a concert by a famous Algerian musician at a nightclub he owns in Algeciras, with his lieutenants arranging special security measures.

Police surrounded the venue but failed to escape detection, one of Messi’s guards producing a knife before stabbing two officers, the commotion allowing the drugs boss to escape in a strategically-parked sports car.

He remains at large and is thought to have returned to Morocco, as investigators went on to arrest 19 high-ranking gang members and issue eight European arrest warrants.

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