Policia Nacional intercepted a sailboat in waters near the Canary Islands transporting approximately 1,850 kilos of cocaine, in a joint operation with customs officials. Three crew members were arrested, an English national and two French.
The operation, called ‘GRU’, began in 2015 when Customs Surveillance by the Spanish Tax Agency and National Police initiated investigations into a criminal organisation dedicated to the trafficking of narcotics by sea using sailboats.
Their modus operandi was to charter a recreational craft that either moved the drug directly to Spanish ports hidden in compartments, or made the transshipment on the high seas to other vessels that were responsible for introducing the drug into the country. Later the drugs were stored in “care centres” until eventual distribution on the black market.
As a result of the international collaboration with the British authorities (NCA) and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre on Drug Trafficking (MAOC-N), and with the support of the Centre for Intelligence Against Terrorism and the Organized Crime Division (CITCO) along with the Ministry of Defense, a possible transportation of drugs was detected aboard a sailing-type vessel, of unknown name, heading towards the Spanish coasts where the merchandise would be transferred to another vessel.
At first it was suspected that the drug was being transported by a vessel that would have received the drug off the coast of Surinam. However, the investigation later determined that it could have transferred the drug to another vessel, similarly a sailboat whose name was unknown, but which was about 300 miles from the Canary Islands and bound for the archipelago.
A naval air operation was deployed and, the Tax Agency patrol boat ‘Petrel I’ confirmed the location of a sailboat of about 12 meters in length, with the same white hull that had been indicated, with the support of the Spanish air force.
Finally, in the early hours of June 20 and 240 nautical miles ( 444.48 km ) west of the Canary Islands, the ‘Petrel’ proceeded to board the ‘Pepper Sauce’ sailboat, flying the English flag, with all three of its crew members being arrested. Inside the boat, a total of 61 bales of cocaine with an approximate weight of 1,850 kilos were located.
After obtaining the mandatory judicial authorisations, the sailboat, was towed by the ‘Petrel’, to arrive in the port of Las Palmas where the detainees, the drugs and the boat were made available to the relevant judicial authorities.