SPANISH police seized 300kg of cocaine smuggled into Europe by a drug trafficking gang who disguised it as charcoal.

In a joint investigation by Spain’s National Police and Portugal’s Judicial Police, the forces uncovered a gang who were bringing in the class A substance from South America after processing it to make it black and odourless.

“The modus operandi involved using a complex chemical process to camouflage the drugs as charcoal, a process that was carried out by the Mexican and Colombian cartels who supplied the alleged kingpin,” the Spanish police said in a statement.

“The drug became almost undetectable because its shape and colour was so similar to that of charcoal. Furthermore, the characteristic smell of cocaine had been eliminated, meaning it couldn’t be detected by specialist narcotics dogs.”

The gang then hid the disguised cocaine lumps among 1,364 sacks of real charcoal in a shipment sent to the Portuguese coast and then transferred to lorry and driven across to Spain.

Police moved in as the cargo arrived at an industrial estate outside Medina del Campo in Castilla y Leon where the gang had a laboratory to process the cocaine.

Some 862 kg were seized and three people arrested including a well-known Basque drug trafficker who had spent time in jail in Bolivia.

“This major operation hasn’t just resulted in the arrest of a well-known drug trafficker, it has also yielded one of the biggest cocaine seizures recorded in Castilla y León,” the Spanish police statement said. “What’s more, it revealed a modus operandi that hadn’t been seen before.”

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