IT was a historic moment for Spain’s never-ending war on drugs this week.
What had been rumoured for years was finally confirmed when Guardia Civil intercepted a submarine stacked full of cocaine.
Discovered on Sunday off the coast of Pontevedra, Galicia, the submersible, which had come from Colombia, was resurfaced on Tuesday evening.
Once brought to the port of Aldan, Policia Nacional and other investigators were able to confirm it was around 20 metres long.
The first vessel of its kind to be caught in European waters, it was carrying 152 packages containing more than three tonnes of cocaine.
¿Aun no has visto el submarino interceptado con 3000 kg de cocaína en una operación conjunta de Policía, Vigilancia Aduanera y Guardia Civil?. Es la primera vez que se interviene uno en #Europa#JuntosATuServiciohttps://t.co/MhdNkL3Hzt pic.twitter.com/tHzd7BrL8t
— Guardia Civil ?? (@guardiacivil) November 27, 2019
According to Galicia congressman Javier Losada, the drugs had a street value of more than €100 million.
He told press: “It is a historic operation, it is the first time that a vessel like this has been caught in Europe.”
He thanked the UK, US, Brazil and Portugal for their cooperation, saying ‘there will be a before and after in drug trafficking investigations after this international cooperation.’
It came before the UK’s National Crime Agency said a large portion of the drugs were most likely heading to the UK, which is among the top two cocaine markets in Europe, alongside Spain.
“It is highly likely a lot of this cocaine would have ended up on the streets of the UK, fuelling serious violence and impacting on the most vulnerable members of society,” Tom Dowdall, the NCA’s deputy director international said on Wednesday.
Despite two Ecuadorian crew members of the submarine being arrested, the investigation is far from over.
While they have been sent to prison ahead of trial, a third man, alleged to be Spanish, escaped from the vessel.
Police are still searching for him and the Galicia-based organisation which was set to receive the shipment.
Investigators have narrowed down their focus, revealing that there are only a few ‘powerful’ groups capable of carrying out such an operation.
It comes after rumours of submarines making runs between Spain and Africa started way back in 2006.
Police were never able to shore up the whispers, let alone catch a submarine in action, making this week’s find so historic.
“No one had seen anything like it before, not even the Colombians,” sources close to the investigation said.
It was only made possible thanks to a tip off from the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
Made in a secret shipyard in the jungles of Suriname or Guyana, the vessel had the fuel capacity to cross the ocean while carrying three tonnes of cargo.
“Drug traffickers are continuing to introduce drugs into Europe using any type of vessel, like this submarine,” Losada added.
The investigation continues.