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Spain Seizes Record 9.5 Tonnes of Cocaine From Ecuador

Madrid (AFP) – Spanish police and customs on Friday announced the seizure of nearly 9.5 tonnes of cocaine from Ecuador, in what they described as the country’s biggest-ever haul of the drug. The seizure, which took place on Wednesday in the southern port of Algeciras, is “the biggest concealed cargo of cocaine in Spain to date,” they said in a joint statement. The narcotic was stashed in banana crates inside a refrigerated container, they added. The operation is “an unprecedented blow for one of the biggest criminal organisations at world level in cocaine distribution,” they said, without identifying the group.

The intended recipients were Europe’s major criminal networks in Europe, they added. The logos of more than 30 European criminal groups who had been destined to take delivery of the cargo were found inside. Many of the packages were branded with swastikas and the word “Hitler”, similar to a consignment of cocaine that was intercepted in Peru en route to Belgium in May this year. The drugs had come from Guayaquil, the Ecuadoran port city known as a springboard for South American drugs heading to the United States and Europe.

The organisation which undertook the transport was able to send 40 containers a month to Europe thanks to a vast commercial network and also used the northwestern port of Vigo, the investigators said. The authorities said the organisations operated through an international banana trading company based in Ecuador’s port of Machala. “From there they sent the merchandise in maritime containers to different companies in our country controlled by members of the criminal network itself,” the statement said,

In the last few years, Ecuador has become a key player in the regional cocaine trade as drug trafficking from Colombia and Peru expands into the Andean country, taking advantage of lax security in ports on its Pacific coast. The rug trade has spurred a wave of violence. Ecuador’s murder rate since 2018 has quadrupled, kidnappings are rife, and a string of clashes between rival drug gangs has claimed at least 430 lives in Ecuadoran prisons since 2021. Spain’s proximity to North Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, the world’s main cocaine-producing region, have made it a portal for drug-smuggling into Europe.

Source: FRANCE24