The Eagle Ray was towed to Algeciras and searched. | Policia Nacional

Two Russians have been sentenced to five years each for smuggling eight tonnes of hashish into Spain on a yacht that had set sail from Mallorca.

On Friday, the two, aged 40 and 49, pleaded guilty at a Palma court appearance via videoconference from Algeciras. They have also been fined 15 million euros. Once half the sentence has been served, they will be expelled from Spanish territory for ten years.

In September 2020, the two received the Eagle Ray yacht in Mallorca. Flying a UK flag, it was in the name of a Czech citizen. In reality, it was owned by a drugs trafficking criminal organisation which had recruited the two Russians.

The Eagle Ray left Mallorca on September 17. It was bound for Morocco's Atlantic coast, where unknown persons from the organisation delivered the drugs to them. On September 24, a joint operation was carried out. Agents from Customs Surveillance and officers from the National Police had been given authorisation from the UK to board the vessel once it was in Spanish waters. The yacht was towed to Algeciras, where it was searched.

The enormous stash was in 305 bales with a combined weight of eight tonnes. The drugs were destined for sale in Europe by the organisation that had hired the two Russians. As well as the haul of drugs, officers seized five phones, two tablets, a hard drive, two GPS devices and 800 euros cash.

Operation Goleta-Gratil was led by Customs Surveillance in Mallorca and resulted in the interception of five boats and the seizure of 25 tonnes of drugs. Four of the vessels were seized by Customs Surveillance boats; the fifth by a Navy Maritime Action boat. Twenty-five people were arrested. It was the largest operation against the trafficking of hashish in Spain.

Inspector Joaquín Molina of the National Police's narcotics squad explains that Mallorca was used as a logistics point. "They awaited instructions to distribute drugs to the rest of the world. It was a waiting point." Ernesto Carvajal, head of the Customs Surveillance operational unit, says that the most critical moment was when the Eagle Ray was boarded. "Our men risked their lives."