Spanish police officers have been inside the “narco-submarine” that was seized on Sunday off the coast of Pontevedra, in Spain’s northwestern Galicia region. On Tuesday evening, the surmersible was refloated by specialists from Spain’s Civil Guard and the Customs Surveillance Service (SVA) and brought to the port of Aldán, where the National Police were able to examine the vessel’s characteristics.
No one had seen anything like it before, not even the Colombians
Once the sub was out of the water, officers were able to confirm that it was “approximately 20 meters long,” and that it was carrying “152 packages containing more than 3,000 kilos of cocaine that could be worth more than €100 million on the black market.” That’s according to Javier Losada, the central government’s delegate in Galicia, who spoke from Aldán about what’s been described as the first narco-submarine ever intercepted in European waters.
A historic operation. “It is a historic operation, because it is the first time that a vessel of these characteristics has been caught in Europe,” said Losada, who thanked authorities from the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Portugal for their cooperation. “There will be a before and after in drug trafficking investigations after this international macro-cooperation.”
Javier Losada, central government’s delegate in Galicia
Ongoing investigation. According to the government delegate, two of the crew members, both from Ecuador, have been sent to provisional prison by a court in Cangas de Morrazo in charge of the case. Police are still searching for the third man – a Spaniard, according to the crew – who escaped, as well as the Galician organization that was set to receive the drug shipment.
Technical analysis. Losada said the narco-submarine had the “fuel capacity to cross an ocean with this type of cargo,” and warned: “Drug traffickers are continuing to introduce drugs into Europe using any type of vessel, like this submersible.” The vessel has been transported to the port of Aldán, which is home to 26,000 people. The narco-submarine was refloated with the help of two small fishing ships. The efforts to raise the sub had faced several setbacks including bad weather and the fact that two of the ropes that divers had attached to the vessel broke while it was being towed to port.
“Powerful organization.” The police are now trying to link the shipment to a “powerful” drug trafficking organization, according to sources close to the investigation, which suspect that no more than three groups have the economic and logistic capacity to attempt such an operation.
Legend becomes reality. Since 2006, officers had been hearing about drug-laden semi-submersibles making the trip to Spain and Africa. But no one had ever caught one. This is the first narco-submarine to be captured in Europe. “No one had seen anything like it before, not even the Colombians,” said sources close to the investigation. The investigation was opened following a tip-off from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was then pursued by the National Police, Civil Guard and SVA. It’s now known that the sub was made in a secret shipyard in the jungles of Suriname or Guyana, specifically to carry the cocaine shipment from Colombia to Galicia.
English version by Melissa Kitson.