02/08/2012 La Graciosa/Lanzarote (BG) – 22 people have been arrested by the Policía Nacional following the discovery of approximately 400kg of cocaine on the small island of La Graciosa. The 22, suspected members of a criminal organisation, were arrested as part of a major investigation into drug smuggling and distribution on the Canary Islands. According to various reports, the drug was discovered on the island in early April.
The investigation, carried out over five phases, began over a year ago after the Brigada Provincial de Policía Judicial de Las Palmas (Provincial Brigade of the Judicial Police of Las Palmas) were informed that an organised criminal gang were smuggling narcotics on to the Islands. In collaboration with Italian Police one of the main players in the gang was apprehended in northern Italy and €540,000 in cash was seized.
Following this arrest the investigation gathered pace and the first phase was carried out in December 2010 at Los Rodeos airport in Tenerife. Here police officers arrested five people who were attempting to smuggle cocaine onto the island via an airplane from Venezuela.
The second phase of the operation took place in October of last year (2011), when agents discovered 534 grams of cocaine during a house search in Madrid. The Police found that the house was used for safely storing the drug while the gang was organizing how to transport it to Gran Canaria, according to the Police the house was occupied by ’mules’ of the gang.
In January 2012 the third phase of the operation occurred when police arrested two ‘mules’ who were planning to smuggle the drug, again via airplane, from the mainland to the Canary Islands. During this phase 600 grams of cocaine were found.
The fourth phase took place in April of this year in Madrid. Here officers seized in excess of 600 grams of cocaine hidden inside containers of what was supposedly sport supplement. The gang had planned to send the drug, camouflaged in sports containers, to Gran Canaria via a company in Sevilla. Four men were arrested during this phase, one in Madrid and the remaining three in Tenerife.
The fifth and final phase of the operation was carried out in early April when reportedly 18 bales, containing approximately 400kg of cocaine, were discovered hidden in an underground storage tank on the small island of La Graciosa, just north of Lanzarote. It is the biggest stash seizure in history on the island of Lanzarote.
The gang had transported the drug via boat to La Graciosa where it was stored and then distributed to all areas of the Canary Islands. Eight people were arrested during this phase.
After concluding the operation Police officers proceeded to carry out six house searches in both the peninsula and on the Canary Islands where they found more than 430kg of cocaine, a vehicle, more than €540,000, two laptops, 4 mobile phones, two scales and various documents. All material found is yet to be analyzed fully.