Daring High Seas Bust As Guardia Civil Seizes Cocaine Bound For Canary Islands

Major Blow to Drug Traffickers On Way To Canary Islands

Guardia Civil intercepting the drug boat on its way to the Canaries. Credit: GuardiaCivil.es

A successful multi-national police operation has led the Guardia Civil to intercept a vessel, uncovering 700 kilos of cocaine destined for the Canary Islands.

On August 5, 2023, a sailboat was boarded 500 NM northwest of the island of Gran Canaria. The operation was part of what has been named Operation Adriatica, aimed at dismantling an international criminal organisation suspected of smuggling large consignments of cocaine through the Canary Islands.

Multi-National Operation

The investigation began in March 2022, focusing on the Rossio, temporarily based on Gran Canaria. Information exchanges with Croatian police raised suspicions that the vessel, manned by two Italians linked to the ‘Ndrangheta and a Croat linked to the ‘Balkan Cartel,’ could be used to transport cocaine from South America.

‘´Ndrangheta and Balkan Cartel’ were monitored from that moment, observing how the crew maintained a high standard of living without any professional activity. They kept the sailboat in optimal condition, making sporadic outings to demonstrate normal behaviour.

On July 27, 2023, an unusual trip was detected, where the Rossio began sailing west, travelling more than 750 NM, surrounding the Canary Islands, and returning on August 2. The boarding on August 5 revealed numerous packages, yielding a final weight of 700 kg of cocaine.

The action was executed by the Special Intervention Unit (UEI) with support from the ‘Rio Guadiato’ vessel of the Maritime Service and a Guardia Civil Air Service plane. Simultaneously, arrests were made in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, including a Croat and a Serb citizen coordinating the operation from land.

International Trafficking Routes Around Canary Islands

This research highlights the stability of large European criminal organisations and the geostrategic importance of the Canary Islands in maritime drug trafficking. The operation was coordinated by Europol, involving police from Croatia, Serbia, and Italy’s Palermo Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate.

Various units of the Guardia Civil participated, including the Special Intervention Unit (UEI), Provincial Maritime Service of Tenerife, Air Service, and the Judicial Police Technical Unit (UTPJ). Support was also provided by personnel from the Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas Commands.

The Investigating Court No. 1 of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria directed the operation, decreeing unconditional imprisonment for all the detainees.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.