by Arthur Quinnell, 7 March, 2020
Spanish police helicopter buzzes traffickers’ speedboat off the coast around Malaga (Picture credit: Central European News Agency )
Spanish police announced the arrest of 90 people suspected of being involed in an organised crime network that operated lucrative smuggling rackets that moved both people and drugs across The Strait Of Gibraltar from Africa to Europe.
The Civil Guard released a statement today stating that the smuggling network regularly moved people and drugs across the Strait from Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in northern Africa to The Costa del Sol in high powered RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) speedcraft of the type often used to move illegal immigrants from Libya to Italy or Turkey to Greece.
The Spanish national law enforcement agency said their investigators found evidence that 11 speed boats operated by the gang had carried a total of 269 people and over 10,000 kilograms of hashish from Africa to the Spanish mainland. The ring used radar systems and lookouts stationed along the coast to avoid detection, the police alleged. The advantage of the semi inflatable boats is they can operate in very shallow water.
The migrants moved by the racketeers were allegedly detained by the traffickers at a remote location in Spain until their families paid 5,000 euros ($5,600), a senior police officer said. The Civil Guard did not say when the arrests took place but revealed that another 39 people are under investigation in the case.
The police agency said officers involved in the operation against trafficking had so far confiscated over 10 tons of hashish, 26 boats, 29 vehicles, 250,000 euros ($282,000) in cash, and 12 firearms, during the investigation.
Ceuta is one of Spain’s two northern African enclave cities on the Mediterranean coast. Spain´s southern coast has become a major entry point for drugs and illegal immigrants into Europe since the mass migration crisis of 2015 when Italy, Greece and the Balkan States defied Brussels to tighten border controls. Since a far left government seized power in Spain, the Spanish government has taken a very lax line on preventing illegal immigrants posing as refugees and asylum seekers entering the EU though Spain’s leaky borders..