Spanish drug lord released from prison after raising €200,000 of bail money via ‘crowdfunding’

Sources believe the fundraising effort for Francisco Tejón, aka ‘El Castaña,’ may be a defense strategy given the gang leader is estimated to have amassed a €30-million fortune

Francisco Tejón (r) during the filming of a reggaeton music video.
Francisco Tejón (r) during the filming of a reggaeton music video.

It was a kind of “charity” fundraising effort, jokes a legal source from Campo de Gibraltar in the south of Spain. For three days, a bank branch in the Cádiz province saw an unexpected series of visits from friends, family and associates of Francisco Tejón, the head of the biggest hashish network in southern Spain. All of them were depositing money to help the powerful drug lord, better known by his alias “El Castaña,” raise €200,000 to post bail. Tejón, who is also known by his nickname Isco, handed himself over to police in October 2018 after his defiant appearance in a reggaeton music video despite being sought for arrest. Since then, he has been in pre-trial detention. But by Tuesday, Tejón’s supporters had raised enough money for bail and by the following day, the leader of the Castaña drug clan was once again back on the streets. He is awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges but will not face court until the beginning of 2022.

“No family members came. His son picked him up. It’s not a good idea for them to throw a party here,” said an officer who was present when Tejón left the Botafuegos prison in Algeciras. According to the officer, the drug lord left prison just after 8pm on Wednesday. He was wearing a cap to hide his face, and was accompanied by two children. The group avoided being photographed. Another officer expressed his frustration at the release. “It doesn’t matter [that he didn’t throw a party at the police station], they will throw one in La Atunara,” he said, referring to a neighborhood in La Línea de Concepción that protects Tejón and his powerful Castaña drug clan. “They would have already bought flares and fireworks. They will party that night.”

Singer Clase A (l) and drug trafficker Francisco Tejón in a still from the music video he appeared in before handing himself over to police.

Police, Civil Guard and customs officers in Campo Gibraltar have received the decision to release Tejón on bail with a mix of resignation, as the move was foreseeable, and indignation, over its possible consequences. “The ramming attacks, the hit-and-runs are going to start up again … He will control everything from a distance,” the frustrated officer added. Last year, more than a dozen officers were injured after being struck by SUVs driven by members of the Castaña clan.

Tejón was released on bail by the Cádiz provincial court in Algeciras, a decision that the anti-drug public prosecutor does not intend to appeal. After spending more than two years in prison, Tejón was “on the brink” of serving the maximum time allowed for pre-trial detention, according to a source with knowledge of the case. “The legal processes are followed and there’s nothing more you can do,” the source explained. “We have been unable to meet the deadlines because it is a very large investigation.”

Tejón is facing drug-trafficking charges but is not likely to face court until early next year

The provincial court set bail last year at €600,000, but on the appeal of the Tejón’s defense lawyers, it was lowered: first to €300,000 and then to €200,000 – despite opposition from the public prosecutor. According to the legal source, this last amount was what Tejón was able to raise thanks to the “crowdfunding” of his friends and associates. But sources from the public prosecutor believe the fundraising effort may just be a defense strategy of Tejón, who is thought by investigators to have amassed a fortune – together with his younger brother Antonio – of €30 million.

Indeed, Tejón already learned this lesson, when he was released on bail in 2018. In that case, the amount was set at €120,000, which the drug lord paid in a lump sum with a bank transfer from a company based in Ireland. This payment provided a lot of useful information to the anti-drug public prosecutor. “This time, they have avoided being watched. That [payment] revealed a lot,” said the source with knowledge of a case. The case against Tejón dates back to 2015 and 2016, when he and his younger brother were identified in a sweeping police investigation called Operation Ronal for allegedly organizing a shipment of hashish.

The public prosecution’s written accusation is nearly ready, and will soon be presented to all parties involved. The same legal sources predict that the case could go to trial in January or February of 2022. Tejón will face trial alongside his younger brother, Antonio, as well as other members of the Castaña drug clan. Antonio Tejón has been released from pre-trial detention on two occasions due to judicial errors or after posting bail. He was finally returned to prison after being caught in the police investigation called Operation Dismantle in September 2020.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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