It was reported by Europol on 22nd July that a total of 36 people have been arrested and four others have been charged with belonging to an organised criminal group engaged in drugs trafficking from the Spanish enclave of Melilla into Europe. Among those arrested was the head of the criminal group, a Dutch national with Moroccan origin.
The Spanish Guardia Civil, working with Europol, also seized cannabis resin totalling over half a tonne, EUR 124 000 in cash, a sports boat, a jet ski and 22 luxury vehicles, two of which were equipped with sophisticated concealment systems. In addition computers, extensive documentation, 47 mobile phones, 3 GPS systems and a maritime GPS belonging to the boat were seized. The seizures were a result of searches carried out in houses in Melilla (5), Málaga (2), Almería (4), Madrid (2) and Amsterdam (2), a boat in Almeria and a shop in Madrid.
The investigation began in July 2013, when the Guardia Civil started to pursue an alleged international organised crime group involved in drug trafficking activities. Officers discovered vehicles equipped with false bottoms that were being used to smuggle cannabis resin from Morocco/Spain to different EU countries including the Netherlands and Germany. The vehicles were crossing from Morocco to Spain via Melilla on passenger ferries, often travelling with young children in order to avoid suspicion. The criminal groups used very sophisticated concealment techniques in bottom of the vehicles, making them almost impossible to detect. They also constantly changed vehicles and routes to avoid detection.
In addition to hosting technical meetings and providing operational support, Europol extracted data contained in the seized mobile phones and other electronic storage devices, resulting in 47 separate reports to the investigative team. In addition, Europol experts will cross-check the extracted data and carry out any appropriate intelligence analysis. International support for the operation also came from Eurojust, who coordinated activities at the judicial level including European Arrest Warrants.