Spain’s Tax Agency, the Guardia Civil and the National Police have re-floated the submarine intercepted last Saturday with 3,000 kilos of cocaine on-board, just a few miles off the beach at Hío, in the district of Morrazo (Pontevedra).
After tallying up the haul seized early last Tuesday, a total of 152 bundles were counted. The drugs, due to be transferred from the submarine to another vessel, are now being held in the port of Aldán, in Cangas (Pontevedra), where they have been removed from the submarine.
This is the first time a drugs submarine has been detected in Europe. Two people of Ecuadorian nationality have been arrested in the operation, while a third is on the run and remains at large.
Investigations began when the Drugs Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Spanish acronym: MAOC) alerted the Counter-terrorism and Organised Crime Intelligence Centre (Spanish acronym: CITCO) of a suspicious vessel that was heading for Spain across the Atlantic Ocean laden with cocaine. In this first phase, collaboration with the British police forces was fundamental in ensuring that the submarine could subsequently be intercepted. The police forces of Portugal, the United States and Brazil also took part in the operation.
From that time, a police operation then commenced with naval aviation resources from A Coruña and Pontevedra, and the police presence was stepped up along the whole coastline.
When the submarine finally arrived last Saturday night to the Morrazo Peninsula (Pontevedra), a patrol vessel with night vision made out the arrival of the vessel and spotted the crew fleeing.
Given the situation of the stormy waters, the submarine was unable to hand the drugs over to a third vessel, forcing it to travel along the coast where the detainees tried to sink it before abandoning the vessel.
One person was arrested at this time, having emerged wearing a wetsuit. Last Sunday, a second drug smuggler was also arrested. The third member of the crew fled and his whereabouts remains unknown.
The investigation is ongoing and authorities are trying to determine the origin of the drugs and the organisation that was going to receive them in Spain. Although the use of submarines is more usual in America, this is the first time that this system of transportation has been detected in Europe. The submarine was “homemade”, and is of fibre glass construction, with a capacity and autonomy to transport between three and five tonnes of cocaine.