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Freighter intercepted with 4,500 kilos of cocaine east of the Canary Islands, 15 crew arrested

Tax Agency, National Police and Guardia Civil operation

  • At the time of the boarding by the Customs Surveillance vessel 'Fulmar', it was observed that the cargo ship was carrying 200 tonnes of coffee as declared cargo, far below the ship's real capacity.

  • The conditions of the naval operation have been very complicated due to the sea conditions and the large size of the vessel, with a length of 100 metres.

20 January 2023.- The Tax Agency, in collaboration with the National Police and the Civil Guard, has intercepted a cargo ship named 'Blume' and flying the Togolese flag, 80 miles east of the Canary Islands, with more than 4,500 kilos of cocaine.All 15 crew members of the boat have been arrested in the operation.The boarding of the ship, carried out by the Special Operations Vessel 'Fulmar' of the Tax Agency's Customs Surveillance Service, was highly complex, given the sea conditions and the large size of the cargo ship.

The operation began as a result of international collaboration in which investigators from the Customs Surveillance Service, the National Police and the Guardia Civil, based on the exchange of information between the Atlantic Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC-N) and the Intelligence Centre Against Terrorism and Organised Crime (CITCO), determined the possible involvement of a vessel suspected of illicit drug trafficking from South America.

As a result, the Tax Agency's Deputy Directorate of Customs Surveillance set up a naval air operation and sent its vessel 'Fulmar' to locate and, finally, board the cargo vessel in the early hours of the morning of the 18th.

At the time of the boarding, it was observed that the cargo ship was carrying some 200 tonnes of coffee as declared cargo, far below the ship's real cargo capacity, which drew the attention of the officials in charge of the operation.

Subsequently, during an inspection of the common areas of the cargo ship, the presence of an undetermined number of bales of the type normally used for cocaine trafficking was detected, and the 15 crew members of the vessel, two Albanian nationals and 13 Pakistani nationals, were arrested and the vessel was taken to the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife together with the detainees.

Difficulty of approach

The boarding conditions were very complicated due to the sea conditions and the large size of the ship.Despite this, the swift action of the 'Fulmar' and its crew prevented any possible transhipment of the drugs to other vessels, which would have compromised the detection of the stash.

The detainees, as well as the boat, the drugs and the police proceedings will be handed over to the Central Examining Magistrate's Court of the Audiencia Nacional.

This operation, directed and coordinated by the Anti-Drugs Prosecutor's Office of the Audiencia Nacional, is in addition to those carried out to date on the so-called 'Atlantic cocaine route', known for being used by fishing vessels, merchant ships and cargo ships which, coming from South America, tranship the narcotic substances in the middle of the Atlantic for their subsequent introduction onto the European continent.

Film of the operation (go to the following website to download the video):

https://we.tl/t-fkDPfJ6hsu