Francisco Tejón, the leader of a drug gang in southern Spain, turned himself in to the police in October. He’d been living in hiding since late 2016, although shortly before walking into the police station he’d still had the cheek to participate in a reggaeton video clip, where he was instantly recognized.
Before that, in June, his brother Antonio had been nabbed in La Línea de la Concepción (Cádiz) while visiting his lover, in an arrest that involved 100 police officers.
In the space of four months, the kings of the hashish trade found themselves behind bars. But the leader of Los Castaña clan had made provisions before handing himself over to the authorities.
Francisco, aka Isco, has left the family business in the hands of his 20-year-old son Darren. But things will not be easy for the young new boss: the police are on his tail, rival gangs are waiting to move in, and he could face an internal revolt.
These are uncertain times in the underworld of hashish trafficking. Francisco and Antonio, who are 39 and 34, are now retired and spending their time in solitary confinement at penitentiaries in Córdoba and Granada, respectively.
Over the past few years, the brothers had managed to bring all the small drug outfits operating in Campo de Gibraltar under their control, amassing a fortune of around €30 million in the process.
They also taught Darren the ropes – at age 20, he is already facing two criminal investigations for drug trafficking – and both legal and police sources said they are certain that he will try to pick up where they left off.
“A period ended with them, and another one opens up with their heir,” said one legal source.
While his father and uncle were famous for buying people’s loyalty through generosity, little is known about Darren. The first time he made the news was in 2017, when he was arrested in the Moroccan city of Tétouan along with his uncle and his partner María. He was charged and released, but Cádiz prosecutors are certain that he has gone right back to his usual activities. “We are following his movements,” said a source at the prosecutor’s office. “Before turning himself in, Francisco settled all his debts and left a lot of cash behind to make sure there are no loose ends.”
At age 20, Daniel is already facing two criminal investigations for drug trafficking
It is highly likely that the young Castaña will end up in jail one day, but even this will not prevent him from running the family business. “If it happens [imprisonment], he will not be in solitary confinement like his father and uncle because he does not have such a long record, and he will be able to keep on top of things from prison, like they so often do,” admitted one Civil Guard officer from La Línea.
Darren’s main challenge, instead, will be to keep together the 30 or so small gangs that operate the hashish trade from the north of Africa into Europe, and to ward off pressure from the police and foreign rivals.
“We are in uncertain times: Antonio and Isco left no loose ends, but these organizations are not airtight, and some people work for more than one of them at the same time,” says a high-ranking police officer in Campo de Gibraltar.
As he navigates a network of brother-in-laws and close friends, Darren will also have to keep his lieutenants on a short leash to prevent them from opening new franchises or reaching deals that could push him off the throne.
And all the while he will have to keep an eye out for other gangs that have kept a low profile until now. “It is difficult for a single gang to exert full control; we are likely to see several groups,” said legal sources.
The police are focusing on an old gang whose stronghold is located in a neighborhood of La Línea known as El Zabal, a tract of land filled with illegal homes where drug traffickers move around with impunity.
“The parents became millionaires smuggling tobacco, and later they moved on to hashish. Now it’s their three children. They’ve always been discreet, but watch out for them,” says a municipal officer.
As if all this were not enough, Darren will also have to contend with new police reinforcements in the area, where fewer shipments are taking place as a result. “The activity is down because of the pressure,” said the same police officer.
Reaction has been swift: drug gangs from other parts of Campo de Gibraltar, such as Los Pantoja from Algeciras, are trying to take advantage of the situation. In the meantime, new drop-off points are being sought in the mouth of the Guadalquivir river, in Huelva and in Málaga. “It’s the tsunami effect,” says the police officer.
Time will tell if the young but experienced Darren Tejón will be able to hold together the fiefdom that he inherited from his elders.
English version by Susana Urra.