Part of the joint raid. / Guardia Civil/Europol

Police break up cocaine gang led by Costa del Sol-linked British drugs lord

An international operation to dismantle the organisation described as a 'super-cartel' has resulted in the seizure of more than 30 tonnes of cocaine

JUAN CANO

An international operation involving the Guardia Civil, the US DEA and the British NCA has resulted in the seizure of more than 30 tonnes of cocaine and 49 arrests.

The Guardia Civil have identified a British citizen linked to the Costa del Sol as the alleged leader of the Spanish organisation.

In a statement the Guardia Civil said this man left Spain some time ago after escaping a kidnapping attempt and took refuge in Dubai, from where he allegedly continued to direct and coordinate the group's activities.

The investigation began after a seizure of 698 kilos of cocaine from a container in the Port of Valencia in March 2020. The global operation, called 'Desert Light', is the sum of several coordinated inquiries - in Spain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Dubai - which have led to the linking of several drug lords. Investigators said this group was part of a 'super-cartel' of cocaine.

In total 49 people have been arrested, seven of whom are considered high-value targets (HVTs). Of these, six were based in Dubai.

The lead from Valencia led to the identification of those responsible for the shipment and to the place where the drugs were inserted into the container: Panama.

The Spanish operation, called 'Faukas', revealed that the drugs gang had settled in the country and was introducing containers with cocaine through the ports of Barcelona, Valencia and Algeciras; they had also formed a complex corporate network of property investments in the Costa del Sol area to launder the profits obtained from drug trafficking.

On 8 November the Guardia Civil made 13 arrests in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga.

The Guardia Civi said the part of the criminal organisation based in Spain had two different structures: one in charge of the extraction of the drugs in commercial maritime ports and one responsible for money laundering through companies.

The first of these cells was based in the provinces of Barcelona and Malaga, and exercised direct influence in the Catalan port. It was made up of two citizens of Bulgarian origin and three of Spanish origin, one of them being a worker at the port of Barcelona, responsible for the entry and exit of vehicles.

The second cell included the leader of the criminal organisation and was based on the Costa del Sol, "the nerve centre of their financial activity". From Malaga they would have acquired - and allegedly laundered - movable and immovable property and shares worth some 24 million euros.

In the searches, items were found which link the arrested gang members with the criminal activity, as well as more than 500,000 euros in cash, three handguns with ammunition and luxury items, including high-end vehicles, some of them worth almost 300,000 euros.