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Spain police bust ‘Ukraine aid’ drug smuggling ring

Spanish police said Monday they had broken up a smuggling ring that was transporting cannabis across Europe under the guise of a convoy of humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine.

During the operation, police arrested 30 suspects — among them Spaniards, Ukrainians, Germans and Moroccans — at several locations across the southern Andalusia region, a Guardia Civil statement said.

The marijuana, which came from plantations located across the region, was “packaged in cardboard boxes disguised as supplies and humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine,” it said.

They were then packed into vans registered in Ukraine that were “purportedly acting as a solidarity convoy so they could pass under the radar of police and border controls,” while visiting various European countries, it said.

Police were alerted to the scheme after identifying a group of Ukrainians on the Costa del Sol who were collecting large quantities of marijuana that were stored in a flat in Mijas, a town near Malaga.

During the raids, which targeted sites in Malaga province as well as in the southern cities of Granada, Cordoba and Seville, police seized nearly 800,000 euros ($847,000), six guns and 2,500 cannabis plants.

The suspects were charged with various offences, including drug trafficking, membership of a criminal organisation and the illegal possession of weapons.