Europol reported on 3rd November that a joint operation between Spanish and German law enforcement authorities, coordinated by Europol, has resulted in the arrest of 20 individuals and the seizure of over one tonne of hashish, 44 vehicles, 21 properties, a sailing boat and EUR 27 500 in cash.

Spain’s Guardia Civil worked closely with Germany’s Rheinland-Pfalz Police, supported by Europol, to arrest 20 people in Spain and Germany and charge four others as alleged members of one of the most serious criminal drug organisations, made up of Spanish, German, English and Moroccan citizens. Police seized 1.1 tonnes of hashish and other assets worth more than EUR 9 million.

The criminal network was run by a German, who was arrested in his country after escaping from a Spanish prison whilst serving a sentence for drug trafficking offences. This individual was considered to be one of the most active in the transport and distribution of hashish in central Europe, and was under investigation in Denmark, France and Germany. The drug organisation had members in North Africa who were in charge of cultivating cannabis plantations and the whole process of preparing the end product.

After the preparation, labelling and packaging of the drug, according to quality, the criminal network stored the hashish off the Moroccan coast until it was brought to Spain in boats that arrived via marinas on the Costa del Sol and Almeria coastline. The drugs were then deposited in warehouses, hidden in high-end vehicles that were fitted with false bottoms, and then transported to Germany.

Property searches in Spain and Germany resulted in the seizure of hashish, mobile phones, computer equipment, marine GPS and frequency scanners, cars, a sailing boat, a large quantity of documentary evidence and EUR 27 500 in cash.

The criminal network had front companies in Germany and Spain to launder the proceeds of the sale of their drugs. As well as whitewashing the drugs money, these companies were used to acquire vessels to transport the hashish.

As well as coordinating the operation and providing continuous analytical support throughout, Europol provided on-the-spot support on 14 October 2014 with a mobile office, allowing direct access to Europol’s databases for cross-checking, analysing and rapidly exchanging intelligence. Europol experts also extracted data from seized electronic storage devices and mobile phones.