WELL-ARMED: Police seized an AK-47 and 16 other weapons from the different gangs

FOUR British people are among 85 suspects that have been arrested in one of Andalucia’s biggest police operations in recent memory.

The Guardia Civil has smashed six international criminal gangs, recovering 5.2 tonnes of hash, 17 weapons, including an AK-47 and 49 vehicles, 26 of which were stolen.

The alleged crimes include drug trafficking, belonging to a criminal organisation, theft of vehicles, forgery of documents, illegal possession of weapons and explosives, bribery and conspiracy for kidnapping and murder.

The investigation – dubbed ‘Operation Balbi’ – began last August and yielded arrests in Marbella, Manilva, Ojen, Estepona, Monda, La Linea, Los Barrios, Pinos Puente, Gojar and Lachar.

Officers also seized 322 marijuana plants, 7kg of cannabis and €141,000 in cash.

IN CUFFS: One of those arrested as part of Operation Balbi

The gang of four Brits operated from a house in Istan and are believed to have trafficked hash to the UK.

A police statement said the group ‘posed as a haulage company’ and used the Port of Santander to transport the drugs.

Investigators discovered the group had used trucks with hollowed out bottoms to conceal their cargo.

Officers seized 1,100kg of hashish from the gang, believed to have been taken in Istan, as well as a further 1,500kg in Marbella.

After police busted a Morrocan gang, based in the Guadalhorce Valley, the Guardia Civil said it then had sufficient information to begin Operation Balbi.

MONEY: Officers also took €141,000 in cash as part of the bust

A police spokesperson said the gang worked with other gangs in Malaga and the Campo de Gibraltar.

Five people were arrested and charged with the theft of 22 vehicles, which they are alleged to have supplied to other drug gangs.

A Spanish gang, based between Manilva and Pinos Puente, who wielded an AK-47 and 14 other weapons, was among the connected groups.

Police took 56kg of hash, three boats and four stolen vehicles from the collective, which is said to have trafficked drugs to other European countries.

A police spokesperson said the group used ‘extreme violence to maintain internal discipline’.

HIDDEN: A ‘double bottom’ truck used by a gang to transport drugs

It is alleged the gang conspired to kidnap and murder an ex-member who was accused of trying to steal €1 million worth of hash.

Another of the broken up gangs had houses in Monda and Ojen, which acted as ‘nurseries’ to hide drugs.

Among the haul police seized from this organisation was €108,000 in cash, two shotguns and three ‘high-end stolen vehicles’.

It comes as another hash gang of five people was dismantled by police in Estepona in December.

The suspects were caught on Playa del Castor transporting hash bundles totalling 1,230kg in ‘all-terrain’ vehicles.

DISCOVERED: Another modified vehicle used by drug traffickers

An Algerian gang was also arrested after it used what police described as the ‘go fast’ method to transport drugs from Spain to France.

Officers chased a vehicle along the A-92 in Granada before cuffing four people and seizing 190kg of hash.

Operation Balbi involved a collaboration between the Court Number One of Malaga, the Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office and law enforcement in the UK, France and Italy.

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