Customs officials in Spain reported the seizure of 620 kilos of cocaine in Madrid last week that was mixed with salt intended for animal consumption from Colombia.
The agency worked with Colombian authorities to seize the container where six people were detained. So far, seven people have been arrested in the operation, including the administrator of the importing company. Here is how the situation played out, according to authorities:
On January 8, the Barcelona Customs Surveillance Operational Unit identified a container originating from Colombia, purportedly containing 1,000 bags of salt, imported by a company located in Sant Cugat del Vallés.
Subsequent inspection of the cargo revealed discrepancies, prompting the extraction of samples from various bags for analysis at the Barcelona Customs Laboratory. Analysis confirmed the presence of cocaine in some bags, distinguishable by a specific marking. A comprehensive examination of all bags ensued, leading to the discovery of 34 bags bearing the same distinctive mark, all containing cocaine mixed with salt.
Consequently, the administrator’s telephone communications were monitored under a court order. Intercepted conversations uncovered that the shipment was slated to be transferred to a logistics warehouse in Madrid on January 11 for temporary storage, awaiting further unloading instructions.
In order to identify the members of the criminal organization, a monitored delivery operation was carried out for the merchandise, which left the port of Barcelona on January 11, and was unloaded in a logistics warehouse in the Free Trade Zone. On January 16, the merchandise was loaded onto another truck that took it to a logistics warehouse in Valdemoro (Madrid).
Finally, following new instructions, on January 22 the merchandise was delivered to a warehouse in Torrejón de Ardoz, where it was unloaded by three people who were in the warehouse. The unloading was carried out under the supervision of officials from the Central Mobile Brigade of the General Subdirectorate of Operations and the Madrid Regional Unit of the Customs Surveillance Service of the Tax Agency.
Suspected importers arrested
Following the unloading process near the warehouse, authorities detected a car containing three individuals, observing one of them exiting the warehouse and engaging in discussions with the car’s occupants. Eventually, one individual from the car also entered the warehouse, prompting the vehicle to move. At this juncture, Customs Surveillance intervened, resulting in the apprehension of all six individuals involved.
The detainees are of Colombian and Ecuadorian origins, with one individual having arrived in Spain from Colombia on January 17, purportedly serving as the notary overseeing the delivery of contraband in such operations.
On January 25, officials from the Barcelona Operational Unit searched the residence of the importing company’s administrator in San Cugat del Vallés, leading to his arrest. All seven detainees have faced legal proceedings, with three remanded to custody and the remainder released pending further inquiries, albeit with travel restrictions.
The investigation involved Customs Surveillance personnel from Tax Agency branches in Catalonia, Castilla La Mancha, and Madrid, as well as the Central Mobile Brigade of the General Subdirectorate of Operations.
Recent years have seen Colombian authorities issue warnings about the increasing sophistication of drug traffickers, who employ advanced techniques to blend cocaine with other goods, rendering conventional police reagents ineffective and complicating the detection of narcotic shipments.
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Author: Heidi Crnkovic