Police seize underwater drones capable of crossing the Strait of Gibraltar with 200 kilos of drugs

Eight people have been arrested in Malaga, Cadiz and Ceuta, suspected of being members of a trafficking gang which built the remotely-operated semi-submersible craft from scratch

RAQUEL MERINO

For the first time, officers from Spain's National Police have discovered underwater drones being used to transport drugs. Two people have been detained in Malaga, one in Ceuta and five in Cadiz, suspected of being part of a gang which is involved in medium-scale drug trafficking. The police say the gang built underwater and semi-submersible drones which can cross the Strait of Gibraltar with up to 200 kilos of drugs on board. They are also believed to have created double floors in other means of transport, to make compartments to hide drugs.

These drones are operated remotely, and are known as Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, or UUVs. In total, six large drones with 12 engines and a range of more than 30 kilometres have been seized; they are said to be worth over 50,000 euros. The police believe three of them were due to be delivered to French drug traffickers to transport large quantities of cocaine.

The investigation began in April last year, and the authorities identified a group whose clients were from different criminal organisations, and who were working out of several industrial units in Castellar de la Frontera, Cadiz province.

Over 14 months, the officers were able to confirm that members of the gang were providing logistical services to different networks with clients in Italy, France and Denmark, and to other groups in Spain, located in Catalonia, the Costa del Sol, the Campo de Gibraltar region and Ceuta.

The Spanish police worked closely with their counterparts in France, as many of the vehicles with hidden compartments were travelling to that country. They also identified several people from Morocco and Denmark who were sending large amounts of cocaine from southern Spain to northern Europe, for North African organisations known as 'Mocro-maffia'.

Searches of eight homes and industrial units in Malaga, Cadiz and Barcelona resulted in 10 vehicles and 157,370 euros being seized, as well as the drones. Six of those arrested have been remanded in custody as a preventive measure.