CRIME

10 tons of hashish go up in smoke as smugglers try to destroy cargo

Two traffickers injured in blaze during joint Spanish-Portuguese operation off Almería

Spanish customs officers board a fishing boat carrying 10 tons of hashish off the Almería coast.Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera

Spanish customs officers intercepted a fishing boat carrying between 10 and 15 tons of hashish in a spectacular operation that saw officials forced to extinguish a fire that was started with the aim of destroying the cargo.

Two of the boat’s crew members were injured in the blaze, which was started with a can of gasoline, and had to be airlifted to hospital in Almería.

More information

Spain’s Civil Guard, National Police, navy, air force and anti-terrorism and organized crime intelligence center all participated alongside Portuguese customs officials in the operation on Sunday against fishing boat the Eiskos, which flies a Portugal flag, 40 nautical miles off the Almería coast.

The boat, together with the drug haul and the 10 people arrested – five Portuguese, two Senegalese, one Spaniard, a Guinean and a Ghanian – are all now in the hands of the courts. The fire reduced the size of haul but the customs agency said in an official statement that it was somewhere between 10 and 15 tons.

According to Customs Surveillance Service investigators, this new shipment is part of the so-called Western Mediterranean drug route, which has triggered eight operations since summer 2013, resulting in the seizure of 100 tons of drugs. During that time Italian and French security forces have intercepted eight vessels, which, according to inquiries, are backed by mafia organizations based in North Africa.