Five years of drug busts thrown into doubt after arrest of crooked cop

Dozens of investigations at risk due to detention of head of narcotics unit in Murcia

Cocaine seized in 2012 in Murcia under the supervision of the police chief now under arrest.
Cocaine seized in 2012 in Murcia under the supervision of the police chief now under arrest.

Juan José Llamas is led in handcuffs into a police van at the Castellón II prison, and, followed by a second vehicle, is driven to the Murcia Provincial Court. He’s the key witness in a drug trafficking case and will be testifying to ratify evidence in the form of wiretaps and surveillance carried out by the police. He’s been in prison for the last six weeks for crimes against public health and safety, for failing his duty to investigate offenses, for bribery, and falsifying documents. Because Juan José Llamas is the former head of the Murcia National Police’s drugs and organized crime unit, and now faces trial along with two other officers, as well as five drug traffickers.

Last year, Llamas and his team were responsible for seizing a quarter of the total amount of cocaine confiscated by the Spanish police

Llamas and his team in the drugs and organized crime unit were awarded a top police merit medal in 2009. Last year, Llamas and his team were responsible for seizing 2,500 kilograms of cocaine, a quarter of the total amount confiscated by the Spanish police, along with a third of all cannabis. But many of those operations are now being questioned after lawyers representing convicted drug dealers argued that part of the evidence in relation to his case was no longer admissible because it was overseen by Llamas.

In the coming months, Llamas will travel back and forth from his prison cell to court many times to validate other investigations, all of which the defense teams of convicted drug dealers will attempt to have thrown out as inadmissible. Dozens of cases related to drugs seizures are due to be heard, many of them dating back over the five years Llamas was in charge of the drugs squad.

In January, following the arrest of Llamas, Ignacio Cosidó, the head of the National Police, visited Murcia to offer his support to a branch whose reputation had been badly dented (aside from Llamas, six other officers from the region were jailed in 2014 for murder). “An individual has carried out acts for which he is responding personally, but this has in no way conditioned or interfered in the efficiency of the National Police in the fight against drug trafficking,” said Cosidó.

During his trip, Cosidó also oversaw the delivery to several charities of hundreds of cans of mackerel that had been found in a container with 400 kilograms of cocaine.

The authorities have given no details about Llamas’ case. He is accused of providing an informer with cocaine and then sharing the proceeds from its sale. In one recorded telephone conversation, Llamas tells the informer: “I have 100 grams, what shall we do?” The informer replies: “Give it to me at my home.” Both men were then followed to the informer’s apartment. The following day, police officers raided the premises and found 100 grams of cocaine, which investigators believe is part of seven kilograms seized on November 21 and that Llamas had kept in a locker at the police station to which only he had the key. When a forensic team opened the locker, two of the seven packets had been interfered with.

Llamas’ colleagues find it hard to believe that such a distinguished and dedicated officer fell prey to corruption

The judge overseeing the case believes that two other officers are involved in the sale of the drugs. The judge has referred to “numerous packets of drugs having been altered” between being seized and analyzed by health department teams.

Llamas’ colleagues in the Murcia police say they are shocked, and find it hard to believe that such a distinguished and dedicated officer fell prey to corruption. “He drives a 20-year-old car, had no vices, and lives in a normal home,” says one officer who served with Llamas over the years.

Llamas’ bank account shows no signs of large amounts of money being moved around, aside from €600, which apparently was a loan for Christmas shopping. He had even borrowed money to pay for his son’s university fees. Llamas denies the charges against him.