Three men who lived a life of luxury and who spent their days tending to a sailboat called Rossio have allowed the Spanish Civil Guard to dismantle a mafia-linked criminal network that investigators attribute to the trafficking of huge consignments of cocaine through Spain’s Canary Islands. The operation, code-named “Adriática,” resulted in the seizure of 700 kilos (1,540 pounds) of cocaine and four arrests. The Spanish police said that the case confirms major European criminal organizations are capable of deploying their members over a long period of time and in several locations, and underlined the “geostrategic importance” of the Canary Islands in maritime drug trafficking. European mafias are increasingly working in tandem with Latin American cartels to import vast quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine to the EU, according to a joint Europol-DEA analysis carried out in 2022.
Among the men detained are two Italian nationals connected to the ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful mafia group, and a Croatian linked to a Balkan-based cartel, the Civil Guard reported Tuesday. Agents from Civil Guard Central Operational Unit had been tracking a Polish-flagged sailboat that had temporarily docked on the island of Gran Canaria. After exchanging information with the Croatian police, investigators came to the conclusion that it was being used to smuggle cocaine from Latin America.
During a months-long surveillance operation, the three suspects, who had no known employment, maintained a “high standard of living” and dedicated themselves “exclusively” to maintaining the vessel in an optimal state. According to the investigators, they made “small sporadic outings” to give the impression the boat was being used for normal leisure purposes, but that normality was broken by an unusual trip that started on July 27. “The sailboat Rossio, with two Italian crew members on board, started sailing west, covering more than 750 nautical miles,” the investigators said. The voyage’s destination was “an isolated point in the Atlantic Ocean.” The vessel started its return trip on August 2 and three days later the Special Intervention Unit boarded the Rossio, discovering packages containing 700 kilos of cocaine. At that time, the sailboat was 500 nautical miles northwest of Gran Canaria.
The two occupants of the vessel were arrested and at the same time two other suspects, a Croatian national and a Serbian citizen, were detained in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. According to the investigation, they were in charge of coordinating the operation. “At the time of the arrest they were carrying telephones from which they would pass instructions to the crew”, the police reported.
The joint operation was conducted by the Civil Guard and coordinated by Europol, together with the national police of Croatia and Serbia and the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate of Palermo in Italy.
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