The hashish seized “in the last days” by the Portuguese Judicial Police aboard a vessel “off the Strait of Gibraltar” which came from Morocco was destined for an “African country of the Mediterranean basin”.
The operation coordinated by the Judicial Police in Portugal involved the Navy, through the Marines, who approached of the vessel on the high seas. The Air Force, provided night time surveillance, tracking the vessel over 12 hours, from the north of Morocco in international waters’, revealed Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Costa.
Artur Vaz, coordinator of the National Unit to Combat Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs (UNCTE), told a press conference at the Naval Point in Portimão, where the seized boat was taken and where the drug was unloaded under heavy police surveillance, that the investigation started a year ago.
The operation ‘Levante’ culminated in the seizure of a fishing vessel turned into a Dutch-flagged recreational boat which was carrying the drugs. Six men were also detained, two of them Portuguese, and the other of nationalities that the person responsible did not want to reveal, for being able to “call into question the investigations still in progress”.
In the boat, 333 bales of drugs were seized, which were packed in a compartment. Hashish was being transported from Morocco to another North African country, situated in the Mediterranean, from where it would then be ‘distributed by other countries, including several European countries’.
The approach was made in international waters, by elements of the Portuguese Marines. The men aboard the hash-loaded boat offered no resistance, according to Comandante Carvalho Pinto, Director of the Center for Maritime Operations (Comar).
Asked if the traffickers would have weapons, Carvalho Pinto said that “if they were armed, they did not have time to react”.
The six detainees, aged between 20 and 61, are suspected of being part of a “transnational criminal organization with strong support in Portugal”.
This drug seizure, with an estimated weight of 10 tons, represents more than all the narcotics caught last year in Portugal. However, Artur Vaz, UNCTE coordinator, stressed that “the operation is valid not only for the quantities seized, but for the dismantling of the criminal entity that is behind this trafficking”.
The operation is the result of an investigation by UNCTE, with the collaboration of Europol, the Maritime Analysis and Operations Center – Narcotics (MAOC-N), Spanish, French, Dutch and Greek authorities.