Spain and Gibraltar clash over smugglers

SPANISH and Gibraltar police have skirmished over suspected smugglers aboard an inflatable powerboat.

Use of these craft off Gibraltar was banned 10 years ago to discourage smuggling and both Spain’s SVA customs police and the Royal Gibraltar Police approached the boat.

The incident occurred in Gibraltar’s territorial waters, which Spain does not recognise.

SVA officers helped the boat’s three occupants to evade Gibraltarian jurisdiction, the RGP complained.

When asked why they stopped the boat the SVA refused to explain.

Reminded by the RGP of the “correct protocol” the senior Spanish officer replied that the RGP had ignored protocol within Spain’s territorial waters.

Meanwhile, two more rubber launches “suspected of carrying banned imported objects” appeared and both the SVA and the RGP set off in pursuit.

The occupants of one boat ignored their orders to stop, according to an RGP statement, responding instead to SVA orders to follow them.

RGP officers eventually secured a boat which Spanish officers cut free, a communiqué claimed.

Drug smugglers were the only winners in this situation, complained Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo who confirmed that the UK government had protested to Spain.

The Foreign ministry in Madrid declined to comment or verify that a diplomatic protest had been received.

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