On June 1, five hooded individuals accosted a Belgian citizen as he was about to get into his car in San Pedro Alcántara, a district of the southern Spanish city of Marbella. Armed to the teeth, they forcibly took him to a rural house in Coín, around 30 kilometers north of Marbella, and held him for ransom for five days until the police secured his release, according to a National Police statement released on Sunday.
The kidnappers prevented their victim from sleeping during the entire time that he was in their power. They also beat him repeatedly and tried to trigger hypothermia by covering his body with ice bags, then pointing a fan at him.
According to the National Police, the kidnapping was tied to the theft of a €1.5-million drug shipment, which was stolen from one of the members of the gang, the police said in a statement. This is the same amount of money that the kidnappers were asking the victim’s family in exchange for his release. Instead, the relatives contacted law enforcement.
Three months later, the police arrested the perpetrators, four French nationals and eight Spanish citizens between 19 and 51 years of age. They were all members of a drug smuggling organization operating between Málaga and Ceuta, a Spanish exclave city on the northern coast of Africa. Four of them have been sent to prison.
According to investigators at the National Police’s Drugs and Organized Crime Unit (Udyco) in Costa del Sol, the members of the gang have long records that include violent crimes, drug trafficking and arms possession. Most of them have their residences in Marbella, Coín and Ceuta. On September 15, the police sent out more than 70 officers to all three locations, and made 12 arrests.
Searches conducted during the raid yielded high-tech equipment such as geolocation devices, frequency inhibitors, several drones and spy cameras. Officers also found a key copying machine, lock picks, balaclavas, binoculars, luxury watches, three vehicles and cash.
Marbella, Estepona and other nearby municipalities have become the perfect habitat for numerous drug gangs. These traffickers benefit from the anonymity of the area’s sprawl of residential estates, and they solve their conflicts on the streets, gun in hand. Since 2018, authorities have reported around 20 deaths from score-settling in this corner of Málaga, which has 60 kilometers of coastline.