The Guardia Civil, within the framework of operation “Uleyla and Mar 21”, has dismantled a criminal organisation dedicated to smuggling hashish into Spain by sea, coming from North Africa. Twenty-six arrests have been made for the crimes of smuggling, drug trafficking, usurpation of civil status, falsification of documents, money laundering and membership of a criminal organisation.
The investigations began a year ago, when the Guardia Civil became aware of a possible launching of a high-speed boat, one of those usually used by drug trafficking gangs, from the North African coast, bound for a port on the coast of Alicante. The first investigations put the agents on the trail of two employees of a marina in Alicante, who, as it has been ascertained, offered security to the organisation, taking advantage of their working day.
During a launching of a narco-boat at a marina in Guardamar del Segura (Alicante), the alleged perpetrators, who were being watched, fled the scene in a vehicle at full speed, destroying the fencing of the facilities and damaging several vehicles parked in the area.
In June 2021, investigators intercepted a trailer equipped with a double bottom, which was accessed by means of a sophisticated hydraulic opening system.
Days later, a new launching of another narco-boat was foiled, which the gang intended to carry out on the beach of El Pinet, in the town of La Marina in Alicante, using an agricultural tractor, a light trailer and a boom truck. On this occasion, the transport of the boat was intercepted by the agents a few metres from the launching point, intercepting a 12-metre long boat with 700 horsepower. The Guardia Civil arrested the driver of the transport and his companion in this procedure.
At one point in the investigation, the agents prevented the group from carrying out two seizures on the beaches of the coast of Almería, in which a total of 47 bales of hashish were seized. One of them in the town of San Juan de los Terreros, using a high-speed boat, and the other in Mojácar, using a recreational boat.
After several months of investigations, the last phase of these two operations has been carried out.
26 people have been arrested in the provinces of Almería, Alicante and Murcia: in the Almeria towns of Macael, Olula del Río, Níjar, Carboneras, Mojácar and Pulpí; in the Alicante towns of Torrevieja, Guardamar de Segura and Orihuela; and in San Javier (Region of Murcia).
Nine searches were carried out in the province of Almería. 30,000 euros, 2 vehicles, 2 boats, 3 short firearms with numerous ammunition, 3 Taser type electric pistols, an AK assault rifle with ammunition, 2 propellers for high power nautical engines, and numerous navigation and satellite communication devices have been seized. In addition, 1,500 kilograms of hashish, several doses of cocaine, and the elements necessary for the preparation and retail sale of the drug were seized.
The assault rifle was seized in one of the actions carried out, when two of the detainees tried to flee in an off-road vehicle, hitting one of the official vehicles that was overturned in the middle of Sopalmo Beach in Almeria, as well as the recreational boat that they used in this stash, which they did not hesitate to run aground on the shore.
At the same time as the investigation into drug trafficking and criminal organisation, a property investigation was carried out, obtaining a multitude of evidence linking the organisation to the crime of money laundering.
Business network to launder the money
The two operations were completed in May 2022, with the auditing of 236 bank accounts. The gang created a business network, acquiring solvent companies. Then, under the name of these companies, they acquired goods for the use of the criminal activity. The money obtained from the illicit activity was exported to tax havens by means of millionaire promissory notes, using front men or even their own relatives. Subsequently, the money was laundered by investing it in foundations in South America, thus making the economic trail more difficult.
The operation was carried out by the Organised Crime and Anti-Drugs Team (EDOA) of Alicante and the Coordination Body against Drug Trafficking in Andalusia (OCON SUR), with the support of the Rapid Action Group (GAR), the Regional Centre for Analysis and Intelligence against Drug Trafficking (CRAIN) and the Cinological Service of the Guardia Civil Command in Almeria.
The operation has been directed by the Juzgado de Primera Instancia e Instrucción Único de Purchena.