Cocaine worth more than £143 million – nearly half of it headed for Britain – has been seized in one of the biggest drug busts in history.
A total of 65 arrests were made in Operation Scythe, 55 of them in Spain and ten in Argentina.
The Spanish National Police also seized 5.5 million euros – nearly £4.7 million – in cash, 65 luxury cars and six yachts in raids in Madrid, Alicante and Galicia – the rugged region on Spain's north-west Atlantic coast which is the main gateway for cocaine coming into Europe.
In Argentina and Brazil, police seized a total of 3.4 metric tonnes of cocaine ready for shipment across the Atlantic. The drugs were wrapped in sealed one kilogram packets bearing Donald Duck logos, each worth £42,000 at street level – a total of £142.8 million pounds. They were to have been shipped to Europe hidden in containers of apples.
Counter drugs experts estimate that nearly half of those packets would have ended-up on the streets of Britain if the consignments had got through. "Whenever one of these massive hauls reaches Europe without being discovered it is reckoned that about 40 per cent goes to the UK market," said an experienced counter drugs officer in Madrid.
Most of those arrested on both sides of the Atlantic were either Colombians or Mexicans – underlining fears that the violent Mexican cocaine cartels are moving in on the multi-billion pound British and European cocaine market.
The Colombian-Mexican smuggling organisation had an import-export infrastructure set-up in both Spain and Argentina and were laundering their vast profits through a chain of luxury car dealerships in Spain, the National Police in Madrid claimed in a statement.
"This is one of the biggest cocaine smuggling operations ever smashed," said a senior officer at National Police headquarters in Madrid.
Monday 15 November 2010
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Police seize £143 million of cocaine in international operation