Spanish police smash cocaine network, arrest 59

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Spanish police have dismantled an international network which smuggled cocaine from Colombia, arresting 59 people, they said Saturday.

They also seized 16.5 kilos (36 pounds) of cocaine, 1,100 euros in counterfeit notes and a painting by an unknown artist which the gang had tried to sell for more than one million euros (1.3 million dollars) by claiming it was a work by Spanish master Francisco de Goya.

Officers searched 19 premises and dismantled three processing laboratories as part of Operation Andromeda, launched in July last year, the Civil Guard police said in a statement.

It said the cocaine was smuggled in from Colombia hidden largely in shampoo bottles, mixed with cocoa powder or in suitcases with secret compartments.

The gang operated in the regions of Cantabria, Madrid, Valencia, Valladolid and the Basque Country.

Of the 59 arrested, 22 were Colombians, 18 were Spanish, four were from the Dominican Republic and there were three Ecuadorians, three Brazilians, two Bolivians, two Venezuelans, a Paraguayan, a Romanian and an Austrian.

Another two of those held were minors, the Civil Guard said.

Spain's close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, and its extensive coastline have made it Europe's main entry point for the drug.

© 2010 AFP

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