Spain detains alleged British drug kingpin with mafia links
Spanish police said Friday they had detained one of Europe's most wanted drug lords in his luxury villa on the Costa del Sol after an eight-year probe that allegedly linked him to the Italian mafia and South American cartels.
Briton Robert Dawes was detained on November 12 in a dawn raid coordinated by the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol on his home in the southern resort of Benalmadena, where he lived with his family and bodyguards, the Guardia Civil police force said.
The 44-year-old, who “headed up the biggest criminal organisation in Britain and Europe devoted to drug trafficking, money laundering and murder”, had been under investigation in Spain since 2007, they said in a statement.
He has since been extradited to France, where he is wanted in connection with the discovery of 1.3 tonnes of cocaine in a Paris airport in 2013, for which several Britons suspected of being part of his crime empire were jailed.
The drug shipment, worth more than 240 million euros ($270 million), was discovered hidden in some 30 suitcases on an Air France plane after it landed in Paris at the end of a flight from Caracas’ international airport.
The case caused a stir in Venezuela, where the interior minister admitted that the suitcases had gone through security scanners that had clearly showed the presence of drugs, and 25 people were arrested, including members of the military and an Air France manager.
Dawes is also being probed in The Netherlands over a wave of murders there in 2014 and 2015, allegedly aimed at taking control of the traffic of cocaine in several European countries, police said.
– Cocaine-filled furniture –
From his base in the southern region of Andalucia, he is suspected of importing “furniture from China and fruit containers from South America which he would fill with large quantities of cocaine,” and his cartel also trafficked heroin from Turkey and Afghanistan to Britain, police said.
Dawes mainly used shipping containers to move the drugs around, but also commercial flights like the Air France one and leisure boats, they added.
Last year, for instance, authorities seized 167 kilogrammes (370 pounds) of cocaine in Portugal that had been transported from South America on board a yacht called “Gloria of Grenada,” Europol said in a statement.
Dawes would allegedly regularly meet up with representatives of South American crime empires in luxury hotels in Madrid, such as the Medellin Cartel once headed up by Colombia’s notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.
He is also believed to have bought large amounts of drugs from Italy’s secretive ‘Ndrangheta mafia, which is thought to run much of Europe’s cocaine trade from its homeland of Calabria.
A group of policemen from several countries was formed to probe his alleged, sprawling criminal empire, which had connections from Portugal, France, and Belgium to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Venezuela and Mexico.