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Sail boat intercepted carrying 4,700 kilos of hashish in waters off Cartagena

Combined operation of the Tax Agency and the National Police

  • The drugs allegedly arrived on the vessel following a transfer from two RIBs.
  • Its two Bulgarian crew members have been arrested.
  • The organisation is said to have changed the name and flag of the vessel in an attempt to evade investigators, who believe it to be linked to the seizure of another vessel carrying more than four tonnes of hashish last year.

27 November 2021.- The Tax Agency and the Spanish Police, as part of a joint operation, have seized 4,760 kilos of hashish being transported on a sail boat 67 miles off the coast of Cartagena (Murcia).The operation resulted in the arrest of two Bulgarian nationals who form part of an organisation involved in the maritime transport of narcotic substances to Europe.

Joint investigations by the Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency in the Balearic Islands and the Spanish Police concluded with the discovery of this criminal organisation and its intention to transport a large quantity of drugs to the mainland by sea.To this end, they intended on using a yacht named 'Floriana', registered in Poland.

According to previous investigations, in 2020 'Floriana' went by the name of 'Salacia' and was registered in the Netherlands.These investigations culminated in March 2020 when another vessel, 'Phase One', was boarded carrying more than four tonnes of hashish.

Following this operation, the investigators' enquiries led them to the discovery that 'Salacia' was waiting in the waters off the island of Cabrera for 'Phase One' and departed the waters of the Balearic Islands on an easterly course.These facts suggested to investigators that its 'escape' was related to the seizure of the hashish and thus determined a close relationship between the two vessels and their crew members, who were left waiting for further instructions from the criminal organisation.

Following these events, the vessel changed its name and flag, having been registered in Poland.This is a common practice of criminal organisations, designed to ensure investigators lose track of the vessel and to avoid raising suspicions about their unlawful acts.

Tracking the new target

However, this did not prevent the vessel from being controlled and detected again upon its entry into the waters of the Balearic Islands by officials from the Customs Surveillance Operational Unit in Palma de Mallorca and the Spanish Police, who have since then been continuously monitoring the vessel by sea and air.

Late on 20 November, the Customs Surveillance Service's aerial resources confirmed that two RIBs had approached the 'Floriana' to supply it with the drug cargo that was subsequently seized.

In light of these facts, the crew of the Tax Agency's Customs Surveillance patrol boat, 'Abanto', was immediately ordered to travel to the estimated position of the sail boat to board it and confirm the transfer of the drugs.

At 02:15 on 21 November, some 70 miles southeast of Cartagena, the crew on the patrol boat, 'Abanto', boarded the 'Floriana', confirming that it was carrying more than 100 bales, the type normally used to conceal hashish resin.The two crew members were then arrested on suspicion of smuggling and a public health offence, with the vessel and the seized merchandise secured, before the patrol boat and the sail boat set course for the port of Cartagena.

Following the search conducted, as ordered by the Court of Instruction number 3 of Ibiza, a total of 139 bales containing 4,760 kilos of hashish were discovered.

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