A GANG of drugs smugglers left stumped by the coronavirus transport ban decided to start a tomato canning business so they could continue their illicit trade.
With it too risky to continue using the roads during the lockdown, they hit on the idea of using the food distribution exception clause in legislation to try to carry on smuggling without attracting unwanted police attention.
The Lithuanian criminals fitted out a Mijas villa on Spain’s Costa del Sol with expensive industrial machinery and entered the tinned tomatoes business.
They started shipping Spanish ‘fried’ tomatoes (tomate frito) to their homeland. But hidden inside many of the tins was hashish, destined for distribution in Lithuania and neighbouring countries.
Acting on a tip off, Guardia Civil set in place Operaction VAISTAS to track the gang. Surveillance led them to a warehouse in Malaga. They pounced on three men loading up a Lithuanian lorry with tinned tomatoes. The tins were found to hide 200 kilos of hashish.
Information gained during the raid led police to a luxury villa in Mijas where officers uncovered a marihuana plantation and tomato canning factory. Seven hundred cannabis plants were found growing.
Three men have been arrested, one more placed under judicial investigation and two cars, a lorry, tools and industrial machinery seized.
A Fuengirola court has ordered that the three arrested men be held in custody.