The Juan Sebastián Elcano. L. V.
Ten years after drug haul on the Juan Sebastián Elcano: cocaine-trafficking sailors are given up to three years in prison

Ten years after drug haul on the Juan Sebastián Elcano: cocaine-trafficking sailors are given up to three years in prison

The guilty verdict and jail sentences close a drugs investigation dating back to April 2014, when more than 150 kilos of cocaine loaded in Colombia were then discovered on this naval training ship in another port



Friday, 10 May 2024, 15:23


A decade after the case was uncovered, and after a troubled investigation that almost came to a dead end, a military tribunal has awarded jail time of up to three years apiece to the two corporals, four sailors and a cook who had abused their positions on the Juan Sebastián Elcano training ship to traffic cocaine.

The verdict thus closes an investigation that dates back to April 2014, when the Elcano, the jewel in the Spanish navy's crown, became the means of transport by which the guilty parties loaded more than 150 kilos of cocaine passed to them by a group of drug traffickers in the Colombian port of Cartagena de Indias. That was a stopover port prior to their arrival in New York where they delivered 26 kilos of the drugs cache to another dealer network operating in the Bronx. This was the trigger for the investigations carried out by the US authorities that led to the arrest of the now-convicted men.

The ruling, reported by, puts an end to a judicial process that in 2020 almost ended the investigation in Spain, after the drugs cache - by then amounting to 127 kilos - was discovered in the boatswain's locker (a secure compartment) of the ship after it docked in Cadiz on its way back.

The judge in charge of the case then ordered a provisional closure of the case for the second time as she could not find sufficient evidence from Guardia Civil reports of illicit enrichment of the accused from the large-scale drug-trafficking operation. She stopped the investigation when she found herself unable to construct a coherent account of all the facts as to what happened, nor could she gather sufficient evidence to prosecute the defendants.

The drugs had been camouflaged, stored in one-kilo boxes labelled as coffee. Once the stash was located, the convicted men denied their involvement in any crime and said they did not know who could have hidden them there, given that there was no record in the ship's documentation that the shipment had actually taken place. During the investigation, the judge encountered difficulties in determining how the drugs had got into the boatswain's locker.

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