Spain's National Police force has detained four men between the ages of 17 and 28 and managed to dismantle an alleged international criminal group dedicated to the large-scale import and distribution of nitrous oxide – commonly known as laughing gas - to nightclubs and private parties throughout Spain.
The ‘Bombona’ investigation started when Torremolinos Local Police officers received several tip-offs from members of the public in a residential area of Benalmádena that a gang was storing “suspicious merchandise”.
Investigations confirmed that a group was importing a large number of cannisters containing the so-called laughing gas. Once the cylinders arrived in the Malaga town, they were stored in a garage in the residential development.
It is claimed that the gang painted and decorated them with the logos of luxury brands, thus making them more attractive for later sale in clubs, discos or private parties throughout Spain.
The first phase of the police action culminated on 29 January, with the arrest of one of those investigated when he was caught red-handed while receiving a shipment of nitrous oxide bottles. In the search carried out in his garage and home 200 gas cylinders - containing about 1,600 kilogrammes of nitrous oxide were seized, aong with 5,000 balloons, 108 nozzles to fill the balloons as well as 67 grammes of hashish.
In subsequent investigations, the existence of a warehouse in Coslada (Madrid) was discovered where officers found several pallets containing more cylinders ready for distribution.
With the evidence obtained it was determined that the arrested man belonged to a criminal group, which would be supplied with nitrogen oxide in an “irregular” way through sellers in the Netherlands to later import it into Spain.
In addition to the Benalmádena property, storage facilities were also found on the Guadalhorce industrial estate and in the centre of San Pedro de Alcántara.
During the second phase of the police operation in Marbella three other men, all alleged members of the criminal group, were arrested. In addition, another 211 cylinders were seized.
Nitrous oxide has become one of the most popular recreational drugs in clubs, discos and private parties in Europe in recent years.
It is a colourless gas with a sweet and toxic odour. The substance can produce euphoria and a feeling of well-being and intoxication with its effects lasting up to three minutes.
Breathing the gas can cause light-headedness, dizziness and drowsiness and, in high doses, can cause fainting and even death.
The four people arrested have been charged with crimes against public health.