DRUG traffickers have been hit hard by the travel restrictions put in place to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
With quieter roads and seas and more police checks, smugglers are finding themselves more exposed than ever before.
It means new methods are being developed as gang members have no other choice but to confront police to deliver drug shipments, with high speed chases becoming ever more frequent.
In September last year, a high speed chase saw one trafficker ram into a pregnant woman’s car in the upmarket urbanisation of Costa Lita, Estepona.
Gangs are also increasingly betraying and stealing from one another, leading to an increase in assassinations, aka a ‘settling of accounts’.
The latest adaptation has seen the 4x4s used to transport bales of hashish modified to be able to spray fire extinguishers from the boot in a bid to blind the police cars in pursuit.
The devices were discovered by Guardia Civil as part of Operacion Impasible, which this week brought down a ‘highly specialised’ trafficking group operating out of the Malaga-Cadiz area.
The gang had mastered the art of beach drug drops, which see bales of hashish dumped on the shore before being piled into a car and transferred to a safe house.
In the sophisticated operation, one vehicle would be sent to look for nearby police patrols.
Several other identical vehicles would then drive behind the one filled with drugs, acting as decoys and buffers, protecting the goods.
The gang used Toyota Land Cruisers to stash with bales of hashish, tearing out all the seats, apart from the driver’s, to make more room.
Known as the Toyota Gang in the criminal underworld, they were able to move hundreds of kilos of hashish per trip.
The car with the drugs inside was fitted with a fire extinguisher in the glove compartment or on the right arm rest of the driver.
A long rubber tube, sealed with electrical tape to avoid leakage, was connected to the end of the extinguisher and ran through the vehicle, exiting by the boot of the car.
If being chased by police, the driver would spray the fire extinguisher, causing thick white dust to blast out of the back of the car.
Despite its ingenuity, however, the criminal gang was finally brought down last week following a year-long investigation.
Some 36 people were arrested in total, with police seizing 3.1 tonnes of hashish, a boat, eleven cars (six of them stolen), and a state-of-the-art telecommunication system.
The first arrests in March last year saw five bales of hashish seized from a boat off the coast of Manilva, leading to 21 suspects being cuffed.
Further intelligence led authorities to 42 bales of hashish in Estepona, containing 1.26 tonnes of hashish and six vehicles, leading to another three arrests.
Police would later seize 1.65 tonnes of the drug during another raid in Barbate, Cadiz, along with three more cars. Seven more suspects were arrested.
The five leaders of the gang were finally arrested in January of this year, bringing an end to the organisation, said Guardia Civil.