Spain smashes international cocaine ring
Spanish police said on Tuesday they had smashed an international gang that smuggled cocaine into Madrid's airport from the Dominican Republic, arresting 13 people including several airport employees.
The cocaine was smuggled in on tourist flights from the Caribbean nation by "drug mules" three or four times a week in a system that may have brought in some 20 kilograms of the substance per month, police said in a statement.
The mules would leave the drugs at previously agreed hiding places at the airport such as in rubbish bins or under ceiling panels before they passed through security.
Maintenance workers at Madrid's Barajas airport would pick up the drugs and then hide them amid their personal belongings or work tools to get them out of the facility.
To finance their operations, members of the gang posing as police officers also hijacked trucks, mainly those carrying computer equipment and domestic appliances, the statement said.
It said the network was led by a Spanish man who owned a catering business in Madrid as well as petrol stations.
Police arrested 13 people - one Spaniard, three Colombians, six Dominicans, one Italian, one Algerian and one Portuguese national - several of whom were airport employees.
They also seized 30 kilograms of high-quality cocaine as well as stolen goods worth more than 100,000 euros ($A162,100) in raids on homes in Madrid and on a building in the industrial suburb of Mostoles.
Spain's close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it an important gateway for international drug dealers.
Its proximity to North Africa has also meant it is a key entry point for hashish into Europe.
December 30, 2009 - 6:09AM
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