The National Police and the Civil Guard have arrested, in a joint operation, three men aged 19 and 26 as alleged members of a human trafficking network after allegedly transporting a dozen immigrants to the coast of Cartagena (Murcia), according to sources from both bodies in a statement.
Those arrested, who have been remanded in prison, have been charged with the alleged crimes of human trafficking, smuggling and membership of a criminal organisation.
The action began when the Benemérita detected the presence of a vessel whose position, size and course led them to suspect that it could be a high-speed boat of the type usually used to smuggle narcotic substances and immigrants along the Murcian coast.
To verify this finding, agents from the Provincial Maritime Service of the Armed Forces went to the place and, after a search of the area, located the boat, which was sailing without lights in the dark.
When the crew were discovered, they fled at high speed, even ramming the police boat on several occasions, causing serious damage and even causing a water leak in the inflatable boat in which they were travelling.
Despite their reckless piloting, the Civil Guards managed to board it in a dangerous manoeuvre, take its three crew members into police custody and transfer it to the Port of Cartagena, where they verified that it was also carrying six canisters of fuel.
HIGH SPEED CRAFT SUBJECT TO REGISTRATION
It is a seven-metre long inflatable boat with a 150 horsepower engine, without identification plates or serial numbers that would allow its identification, of those classified, by virtue of Royal Decree-Law 16/2018, of 26 October, as vessels subject to registration, as they are vessels which, due to their size and power, can be used as a means of committing crimes of illicit trafficking in persons and goods, and so it was seized and transferred together with the three suspects to the port of Cartagena.
It is in the Port of Cartagena where the National Police and the Benemérita, as a result of the reconstruction of the facts and the joint investigation of both Corps, found out that the three crew members were allegedly responsible for the transfer, from the Algerian coasts, of 12 immigrants, who had been located that same morning in the coastal area of Escombreras.
The trip in this type of high-speed boat, known as a ‘taxi-boat’, costs each immigrant approximately 5,000 euros, while in a conventional patera it does not exceed 1,000 euros. The increase in the cost is due to the duration of the trip, since in a conventional dinghy it would take around 15 hours, while in a high-speed boat it does not exceed four hours.
The seized boat did not have the minimum safety measures and in the cockpit, the immigrants had placed petrol canisters in the bathtub to supply the engines, with the consequent risk of deflagration.
In this way, the investigators concluded that this boat, equipped with a 150 horsepower engine – valued at 20,000 euros – was, at the time of its interception, supposedly on its way back to the Algerian coast.
The investigation has culminated in the arrest of the three crew members on suspicion of human trafficking, smuggling and membership of a criminal organisation.
The arrested Algerian nationals, the boat and the six bottles of fuel seized, as well as the proceedings conducted by the National Police and the Guardia Civil, have been placed at the disposal of the Court of Instruction number 3 of Cartagena, whose head ordered the imprisonment of the three detainees.