Huge cocaine haul seized in tugboat off Spain
Nearly four tonnes of cocaine worth an estimated $ 260m (£200m) have been seized by international law enforcement officers off the Spanish coast.
The drugs were found on a tugboat between Madeira and the Azores islands.
Officials found 165 individual packages of cocaine weighing 23kg – a total of 3.7 tonnes – concealed beneath the vessel’s cooking area.
It is not clear where the drugs were being taken to. The crew, from Turkey and Azerbaijan, were arrested.
The Comoros-flagged vessel was towed into the Spanish port of Cádiz on Friday after Spanish officials received intelligence from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
The operation was jointly conducted by Spanish customs and police and the NCA under the overall co-ordination of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon.
“Seizing this quantity of cocaine represents a major disruption to international crime groups, depriving them of revenue potentially running into the hundreds of millions of pounds,” NCA spokesman Mark Blackwell said.
There have been two other big Atlantic drug busts in recent months.
Thirteen Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin were arrested on Monday over what is believed to be a record seizure of cocaine in the North African country, officials there said.
Police were reported to have seized more than 2.5 tonnes of the drug, with a street value of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The cocaine was thought to have come from Venezuela on its way to Europe or the United Arab Emirates.
Morocco’s investigations chief Abdelhak Khiam said South American drug cartels were using smuggling routes through sub-Saharan countries where he said there was “little control”.
The Portuguese navy and air force is also reported to have carried out a drugs seizure on Thursday after intercepting a yacht suspected of transporting cocaine to the country from the Caribbean.
The vessel was stopped about 965 nautical km (600 nautical miles) south of the Azores, Portugal News Online reported, and was carrying a large amount of “highly pure” cocaine believed to be worth about $ 23.5m (£18m).