By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE Guardia Civil yesterday confirmed that its organised crime squad has broken up a major international drug smuggling network operating in Palma, Madrid and Barcelona.

As we reported yesterday, the Guardia Civil had mounted a series of house raids in the city and made a number of arrests as part of a simultaneous operation carried out in various parts of the country.

Yesterday afternoon, Guardia Civil chiefs debriefed the media on the exact results of Operation Lagos which has resulted in the break up of an international gang smuggling cocaine into Palma and other parts of Spain from Holland.

A total of 14 people have been arrested, one is being treated in hospital after he tried to escape by leaping from a second floor balcony in Palma, and nearly ten kilos of cocaine seized.

Guardia chiefs said yesterday that, since the gang began operating in Spain, it has smuggled between 50 and 60 kilos of cocaine in to the country.
The operation began in 2006 when the Guardia Civil caught a couple of Nigerians trying to smuggle cocaine into Barcelona from Casablanca. The subsequent investigation led police to Palma where the alleged brains behind the smuggling operation was based and since then, the organised crime squad has been monitoring the activities of a number of “camels” used to smuggle the drugs. Apparently, each “camel” would smuggle around a kilo of cocaine out of the Republic of Guinea, to Casablanca and then onto Amsterdam before the final stretch of the journey to Palma via Madrid and Barcelona.

The Guardia Civil explained yesterday that the tickets for the smuggling “camels” were booked in Spain and paid via international money transfer offices.

The “camels” were also given basic travel allowance of 500 euros, the minimum figure certain countries demand a tourist is carrying in order to enter the country.

The gang also covered hotel bills in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Amsterdam and also provided guarantees of financial aid should any of the smugglers get arrested and that funds would be paid to partners and family should the suspect end up in prison.

The Madrid and Barcelona operations were responsible for “retrieving” the drugs which were swallowed and smuggled inside the body as well as hiring new “camels” for future drug runs from West Africa to Palma.

The gang was described as being extremely well organised.
Key members used a special code the few times they used the telephone, for example.
The operation was yesterday hailed as a major success for Palma's Guardia Civil organised crime unit which was only set up at the end of last year and for the war against drugs and organised crime in Spain.