They knew what they were doing: a gang that stole 290 kilos of drugs from a judicial storage unit in Cádiz at the weekend was able to bore a hole through an adjoining building, disable the alarms and redirect the security cameras in order to go about its business unseen. It also knew that the building, which is guarded around the clock, was at that moment free of security agents. Police labor unions and drug enforcement units on Monday complained of “administrative slovenliness,” despite issuing repeated warnings about the risks of storing consignments of seized drugs in installations without sufficient security measures.
The raid is no isolated incident in Andalusia. Last year in Málaga 300 kilograms of cocaine were stolen from a similar storage unit. Since 2008, four robberies have been carried out in Málaga, Seville and Cádiz, with a total of 774 kilograms of drugs going missing, none of which has ever been recovered.
Earlier this year the chief justice of the Catalonia provincial court, Pablo Llarena, filed a complaint over the storage practices of the law enforcement authorities. In the memo addressed to all the judges in the region, Llarena said officers were stashing hashish, cocaine and other substances in the offices, garages and rooms of civil guard barracks due to a lack of space elsewhere.
The Cádiz heist was carried out last Saturday, although according to investigators, the robbery was not discovered until Monday. The storage unit, which is housed in the vehicle pool garage underneath the offices of the central government delegation in Cádiz, has an armor-plated door but its walls are not reinforced. The gang was fully aware of this and so went through the wall of the adjoining building, making off with a huge haul, the majority of it cocaine.
Because of the robbers’ intimate knowledge of the security set-up, investigators believe they are dealing with a specialized gang that may also be responsible for the previous raids. The thieves stole a quantity of drugs that would have fitted perfectly in the trunk of their getaway vehicle. The storage unit houses Andalusia’s largest ever single haul of cocaine: three tons seized by the Special Group of Operations at high sea onboard the SS Nikolai and mostly contains drugs confiscated in the Bay of Cádiz.
“The people who stole the drugs knew the place very well,” said police chief Miguel Rodríguez Durán on Tuesday, adding that the security measures in the garage “were good, but apparently not good enough.”
The Unified Union of Police (SUP) revealed that last December, in a meeting with high-ranking police officials and the central government delegation, it was agreed that the unit should be afforded more protection. The decision followed the raid on a drugs deposit of a similar specification in Málaga. According to the SUP, a security guard was hired but removed after a few months.
The public prosecutor and drug enforcement authorities have been calling for several years for the huge deposits of narcotics and other drugs under the protection of the authorities to be destroyed as a matter of urgency. A small part of the haul can be kept aside for use in cases against dealers and traffickers, they argue. Under the current system, the caches are kept intact until suspects are charged.
The Socialist regional government delegate in Cádiz, Fernando López Gil, called on the central government delegation to “put the necessary measures in place” to prevent further attacks on storage facilities. That the unit was not under police guard is a “real drama,” he added.