Spanish police said Friday they had arrested a cousin of Mexico's most notorious drug cartel leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, along with three other cartel members.
In a joint operation with the FBI, police swooped on the four suspects near their hotels in central Madrid, they said.
"Four members of the Sinaloa cartel were arrested in central Madrid, including a cousin of the world's biggest drug trafficker, who had chosen Spain as a launch pad for his operations in the old continent," police said.
"Our country was going to be used a gateway for major consignments of narcotics," they said in a statement.
Police arrested Jesus Gutierrez Guzman, first cousin of the cartel boss; Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela; Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela; and Jesus Gonzalo Palazuelos Soto.
Aged between 37 and 52, they are all Mexican citizens and are wanted in the United States for drug trafficking and money laundering among other crimes, the police statement said.
Spain's National Court ordered their imprisonment.
Since escaping from a western Mexican prison in 2001, "El Chapo" -- which translates as "Shorty" -- has become one of the world's most powerful drug traffickers and richest men.
During his decade on the run, his Sinaloa cartel has moved from relatively low-key drug trafficking operations to controlling large swathes of Mexican territory while it wages bloody turf battles with rival gangs.
But while Guzman has eluded capture or death, one of his brothers was killed in a Mexican jail in December 2004 and a son was killed in a Culiacan shopping center in May 2008.
His organization's reach extends deep into Latin America and Europe.
The FBI's Boston office began its 'Dark Waters' investigation into the cartel in May 2009, and they started meeting Spanish police in October 2010 after discovering the expansion plans, the Spanish police statement said.
The FBI ran the bulk of the investigation, tipping off Spanish police about cartel members' plans to travel to Spain in March 2011. Spanish officers tracked them after their arrival.
Spanish police were also informed of the cartel's plans to move cocaine by sea hidden in cargo containers.
After sending several containers without drugs to test security, the traffickers sent a first shipment from Brazil which was intercepted in the southern Spanish port of Algeciras with 373 kilograms (820 pounds) of cocaine aboard, the statement said.
Police said they were able to identify Jesus Gonzalo Palazuelos Soto when he came to Madrid to take charge of the cocaine shipment.
Days later the other three arrived in Madrid: the crime boss's cousin suspected of running the Spanish operation; one of his partners, Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela; and alleged front-man Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela.
10th August 2012, Article on Expatica.com here
Spain seizes four Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel suspects