A DRUGS network has been smuggling cocaine into Spain on cargo ships, police revealed after a 15-month investigation.
A ship carrying a 3.3-ton consignment of cocaine with a €100 million street value was recently intercepted almost 288 kilometres off the Portuguese coast and escorted into Setubal harbour.
Here, the Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional officers, together with officials from tax authority Hacienda who planned the joint operation, were waiting for the Panama-registered ship.
It was flying no flag when it was intercepted but eight of the 11 seamen who were arrested were Ukrainian, one was Georgian, one Dutch and another French.
Sources close to the investigation later explained that the crew were no more than subcontractors, engaged to transport the cocaine.
The operation was launched in November 2017 following an interchange of information between Spanish units that fight the drugs trade and organised crime.
These indicated that at least once a year an international network was bringing huge quantities of South American cocaine into Spain aboard a cargo ship and later transferred the drugs to smaller, faster and less conspicuous boats.
The ship had been watched throughout its journey and the investigators belonging who decided to strike while it was still some distance from the coast and before the cocaine could be offloaded.