MARINE police have caught up with three suspected drug smugglers off Europa Point after a dramatic cat and mouse sea pursuit.

Juan Manuel Cardenas Pastor, 48, Pancracio Jesus Carvajal Llano, 25, and Jose Maria Olmedo Rodriguez 37, from La Linea, Sevilla and Algeciras respectively, were all released on bail until February 19.

The Spanish trio were arrested after a tip-off by the Guardia Civil as part of Gibraltar’s new cross-border anti-crime partnership.

They had travelled under the cover of night from Malaga, heading towards Europa Point in a inflatable launch commonly used for smuggling.

Police launches from the Royal Gibraltar Police and Gibraltar Defence Police were scrambled to intercept it.

“After an extensive search of the area by the RGP patrol boat, the vessel displaying no navigation lights, was detected on the police radar some 2.8 nautical miles from Europa Point,” said the RGP.

“After a high speed chase, officers apprehended the seven metre RHIB and arrested the three men who were then conveyed to New Mole House.”

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SEIZED: The semi-inflatable launch is now at the police jetty

The arrests were carried out at 11pm for drug smuggling offences, although it is unclear at this point if any drugs were found on board.

Instead, the three men were charged with illegal importation and were tried this morning at the Magistrate’s Court in Main Street, Gibraltar.

The new MoU on police cooperation has given a green light to combined operations by the RGP and the Guardia Civil.

It has led to a number of high-profile arrests over the last few weeks, with governments set to discuss the future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar throughout this year.

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