Part of the haul of the fake tomatoes.

Major blow to drug trafficking in Malaga as 22 tonnes of hashish intercepted hidden as fake tomatoes

Police have made arrests and dismantled a gang that wrapped fist-sized balls of hashish in red plastic and arranged them on large pallets to transport them

IRENE QUIRANTE MALAGA.

A drugs gang that went to a lot of effort to hide fist-sized balls of hashish in fake tomatoes has been dismantled. Despite their ingenuity, the gang had long been on the radar of the National Police and the Guardia Civil, who made their move at the key moment: just after the gang had loaded the supposed tomatoes into a van. The result was that more than 22 tonnes of the narcotic substance was seized in Malaga city with the arrest of ten people for their alleged links to a criminal plot with its roots in Cordoba.

After months of investigation, officers learned that the gang had planned the distribution of a large shipment of drugs, scheduled for 10 January. They found the vehicle that was going to be used for the transfer in an industrial estate in Malaga city and, in disguise, observed how numerous pallets were being loaded onto it.

They waited for the driver to set off and stopped him in Puerto de la Torre, finding 2,600 kilos of hashish in boxes of fake tomatoes inside the van. He was the only one in the vehicle and was arrested.

As the officers suspected that several warehouses could be used to hide a larger quantity of the drug, they carried out a search them, locating a further 19,700 kilos hidden in balls covered in red plastic and arranged on 18 large pallets. At this stage, two people were arrested, who tried to hide under a lorry.

Further raids by the Guardia Civil and the National Police took place on 11 and 12 January, when four simultaneous searches were carried out in Cordoba. The alleged leader of the criminal organisation was arrested and also its main members. This operation continued with the arrest on 17 January of three other people involved, although the investigation is still open and further arrests are not ruled out.

The investigation has been carried out jointly by the Narcotics Group of the Provincial Judicial Police Brigade of the National Police of Cordoba, together with the Drugs and Organised Crime Unit (UDYCO) of the National Police of Fuengirola and Barcelona and the Organised Crime and Anti-Drugs Team (EDOA) of the Judicial Police of the Civil Guard of Cordoba, and with the EDOA of the Civil Guard of the Command of Cadiz.