Spanish, Italian police smash cocaine smuggling ring
Spanish and Italian police made five arrests while busting a drug-trafficking ring that for years smuggled cocaine from South America to Europe, investigators said Friday.
The group arranged for narcotics to be put on merchant ships headed to Europe. Just before the vessels arrived at their destination, the smugglers would dump cocaine packages overboard, Spanish police said in a statement.
Members of the gang waiting in inflatable boats would then pick up the cocaine and take it to shore, from where it was distributed to customers in Spain and Italy, officials said.
Two members of the group were detained in the Italian port city of Genoa in March in a joint operation by Spanish and Italian police.
Police detained another three members of the group, including its leader, three months later in the northwestern Spanish coastal region of Galicia.
"During the search of the home of the ringleader, police found a vault camouflaged behind the wall of the cellar, which housed security cameras that monitored the rest of the house as well as two large safes, cash, valuable watches, computer equipment and documents," police said in the statement.
Police also seized 55 kilos (120 pounds) of cocaine, three cash-counting machines and five cars.
Spain is the main gateway to Europe for cocaine from Latin America and for cannabis from north Africa.
© 2011 AFP