25 Jun, 2023 @ 15:45
1 min read

Cocaine cowboys: Three day search of animal cargo ship fails to find drugs

Cargo ship searched by drug police in Cadiz

A THREE-DAY search by the Spanish authorities of a ship carrying 16,000 cows was called off after officers failed to find the five tonnes of cocaine that they believed was on board. The Mawashi Express was being held in the port of San Roque, in Cadiz province, while the operation was carried out. 

The ship was travelling from Colombia to Egypt when it was boarded by National Police officers, who used an aquatic drone as part of their search. The authorities were acting on information gathered as part of a High Court investigation. 

Also involved in the search were officers from the US Drug Enforcement Administration. 

Aside from the animals – the smell of which was so strong that it prompted complaints from the local mayor – the ship was carrying 77 Egyptian and Syrian crew members, but also two Colombians who were not on the official manifest. 

Officers initially arrested the crew and set about searching the massive vessel, which measured 195 metres in length according to Spanish press reports. 

After 72 hours, however, the authorities were forced to release the crew and the conditions on board – with bad smells, animal faeces and an intense heat – made the search particularly difficult for the police. 

According to Spanish daily El Pais, in January a similar ship carrying 1,700 cows on board was also stopped by the authorities, turning up 4.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden among the cargo of 1,750 cows.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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