Spain's Guardia Civil along with the Belgian and Dutch police have arrested in Marbella two leaders of a criminal organisation that trafficked cocaine on a large scale using legal cargo on container ships.
The organisation, made up of Belgian and Dutch nationals, acquired the drugs in Brazil and then transported them to ports in Belgium and Holland, concealing them in large containers, according to a statement from the police.
The ‘Austral-Coles’ operation began in 2020, when the Belgian Federal Police and the Dutch police opened a joint investigation into an organisation responsible for large shipments of cocaine. The recipients of the drugs were one Belgian and two Dutch companies.
The first shipment of 556 kilograms was seized in Brazil on 13 March 2020, hidden in a legal cargo of soya products. Two further shipments of 586 and 409 kilos respectively were seized in the Port of Rotterdam on 10 April 2020 and on 26 January 2021 when 300 kilograms were found hidden in legal cargo of coffee beans at the Port of Antwerp (Belgium),
Two of the people connected to the shipments were identified and believed to be living on the Costa del Sol. It was at this point that the Dutch and Belgian police requested the collaboration of the Guardia Civil to locate these people.
Guardia Civil officers located one of the suspects in a luxury home in an exclusive residential area in Marbella, which led to his arrest. They then located and arrested the other ringleader, who had fled from the Belgian authorities, in another luxury home in the town. Other members of the network were arrested in Belgium and Holland.
Two homes in Malaga province were searched at the same time as police officers in the other countries simultaneously carried out another seven searches.
A total of nine people were arrested, including the two ringleaders of the organisation. In addition, more than 3.8 tonnes of cocaine, three high-end vehicles, numerous mobile devices containing with relevant information, memory devices and documentation were also seized.