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CRIME

Founder of Spanish Dakar Rally team ordered held in cocaine-smuggling case

Drugs were found in one of Team Epsilon's trucks when it arrived in France from Chile

Spain’s High Court on Monday ordered the owner and founder of a Spanish Dakar Rally team held in preventive custody after he was arrested in Barcelona over the weekend when French authorities discovered some 1.4 tons of cocaine in one of his trucks, which had just returned from South America.

Judge Ismael Moreno denied bail to David Olivares, the founder of Team Epsilon, which provides technical assistance and preparation for trucks competing in the rally.

The drugs were found wrapped in plastic sheets and hidden in radial tires inside one of Team Epsilon’s Mercedes-Benz 3535AK trucks after it arrived last Wednesday at the northern French port of La Havre from Valparaíso, Chile. French authorities said it was the largest haul of cocaine that they had confiscated in recent years.

Two other Spaniards were detained at a rest stop on a French highway in Normandy as they were driving the 8x8 vehicle to Catalonia. Authorities also arrested two Bulgarians in their home country. They are thought to be the leaders of the international trafficking ring.

The cocaine is suspected to have come from Bolivia and Colombia. More arrests in other countries are likely to be made in the coming days.

According to judicial sources, Olivares rejected his extradition to France. The case will now go to a High Court criminal panel for a hearing, where afterwards it will be determined whether he should be handed over to French authorities.

Olivares founded Team Epsilon after taking part in the race for the first time in 1987, according to the company’s website.

“Epsilon Team specializes in the technical preparation of trucks for competition and assistance, as a result of its participation in the most important all-terrain rallies for the last 23 years, which makes it the Spanish sports team with the highest participation rate in 23 Dakar rallies,” the website explains.

 

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