Police smash French helicopter drug smuggling ring

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Spanish and French police have smashed a group that smuggled cocaine and hashish from Morocco into Spain by helicopter, arresting six French nationals, Spanish police said Thursday.

The group would pay pilots 1,000 euros (1,400 dollars) for each kilo of cocaine which they transported from the north African country to southern Spain, from where it was then shipped by car to the French port of Marseille, they said in a statement.

French police detained three members of the group at the end of September as they were driving on a highway near the French town of Perpignan, north of the Spanish border, with 4.8 kilos of cocaine in their car.

The other three arrests were carried out in Paris several days later.

Spanish police carried out searches of several properties in the provinces of Cadiz and Seville following the arrests in France, seizing a helicopter used by the group from a farm near the town of Alcala de los Gazules.

Spanish police opened their investigation in July after they received a request for help in dismantling a drug ring based in Spain from their French counterparts.

Spain's proximity to north Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it a major gateway into Europe for drug traffickers.

© 2010 AFP

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