In a joint operation carried out by officers from the National Police, the Guardia Civil, the Ertzaintza (Regional Police Force of the Basque Country) and the Customs Surveillance Service, the vessel ‘Titán III’ was intercepted on August 7, the Spanish government said Monday.
The vessel was carrying 2,500 kilos of cocaine and was boarded by the GEO (Special Ops Group) of the National Police and by officers of a patrol boat of the Customs Surveillance Service, who arrested the four crew members. The destination of the drugs haul was the Galician coast. The following day a major police operation was carried out that led them to the dismantling of a large drugs organization.
The vessel, a trawler presently going under the name of Zumaia II, was initially detected in Bilbao at the end of 2016, at which time a joint investigation began between the Guardia Civil and the Ertzainza, under the instruction of investigation court number 4 of San Sebastián, which logged the movements of the vessel, showing that its only goal was to transport large quantities of drugs.
Most of the members of this criminal organization were located in the south of Spain and they offered the vessel to the highest bidder.
It traveled from Bilbao to Galicia where it initially sailed into A Coruña before moving on to the port of Vigo, where it was also located at that time by the Assistant Directorate of Customs Surveillance (Spanish acronym: DAVA) in mid-2017, which also began investigating the trawler in coordination with the Guardia Civil and the Ertzainza.
Between that date and the start of this month of August when it was boarded, it traveled to multiple locations: to the south of the mainland, to Morocco, Libya and Dakar before returning again, in the month of May, to Vigo, in search of potential drug smugglers which chartered the vessel. During this trip it changed its name to ‘Titán III’, in order to complicate the investigation.
During its last stopover in the city of Vigo (Pontevedra), in May 2017, it offered its services to a criminal organization that was under investigation by the National Police, and hence this police force coordinated with the working group that was already investigating the activities of the vessel.
Through these investigations, the travel details of the vessel ‘Titán III’ to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean were uncovered, a fairly unusual voyage for a vessel of this type. The officers suspected that during its time there, it would take the opportunity to load the drugs on-board.
Once the pertinent air and sea operations were set up and, once the Customs Surveillance Service patrol vessel ‘Fulmar’ had traveled to the zone, the 25-metre long trawler vessel was located heading for Galicia.
In the early morning of August 7, and at some 500 nautical miles from the Canary Islands, the vessel was boarded by members of the National Police GEO group travelling on the Customs Surveillance Service patrol vessel ‘Fulmar’. The boarding manoeuvres were very complicated as a result of the heavy seas at this latitude.
Various packages were located on-board the vessel containing a total of 2,500 kilos of cocaine. The four crew members were arrested, two of Spanish nationality and two of Senegalese nationality.
The following day, as a result of these arrests, the members of the organisation located in Galicia were also arrested. The National Police searched a total of 23 properties and arrested 25 people in Galicia (21), Toledo (2), Malaga (1) and Huelva (1). Those arrested included three crew members of a fishing vessel which would have allegedly brought the drugs on their last stage to the coast of Galicia.