GUARDIA CIVIL and police customs officers have arrested a man in Fuengirola in connection with a joint Spanish and Belgian operation targeting drugs smuggling from South America.
The man detained in Fuengirola was subject to a European Arrest Warrant. Police alleged he was one of the leading members of a Belgium-based gang who operated in Spain, France, the Netherlands, Colombia and Ecuador.
A total of seven suspects were arrested in Fuengirola and Sabinallas. A further 12 were arrested in Belgium, police said in a statement.
Officers launched their investigation after finding almost 800 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside wood shipments that had arrived in Algeciras from Ecuador.
Belgian police also found around 470 kilograms of the drug hidden amongst wood inside containers that arrived in Antwerp about a month before the Algeciras find.
Investigators claimed the Spanish cargo was set to be taken to a warehouse in Sabinillas where gang members would remove it from the wood before it was moved elsewhere.
The operation, dubbed Fraternity by Spanish police, was co-ordinated by the European Union’s (EU) Judicial Co-operation Unit (EUROJUST).
It saw Spanish and Belgian police officials meet at the agency’s headquarters in The Hague, in the Netherlands, which were also attended by officers conducting investigations in the countries. The probe was overseen in Spain by the Third Examining Court of Algeciras.
Police said the operation came as part of ongoing efforts to tackle drugs smuggling in the Campo de Gibraltar area and the southern coast of Spain. The investigation remains open.