In a joint Spain-UK effort this month, Spanish national police made a massive 1.2 ton cocaine bust in Granada and Guipúzcoa, dismantling a transnational drug trafficking organization that Spanish national police described as “one of the most active in Europe.” The organization was based in both the UK and Spain.
The trafficking network operated by bringing large quantities of cocaine south from a location near the Basque coastal town of San Sebastian to Granada, before transporting the drugs in small quantities primarily to the UK, “where the average street price for a single gram is around £45.”
After a truck demonstrating abnormal behavior stopped to unload in Granada, police intervened, discovering 531 kilograms of cocaine hidden amongst legal cargo. Later, police unearthed an additional 678 kilos of cocaine that the organization had buried alongside a cannabis plantation less than 50 km’s from the French border, in Zarautz. They also discovered 35 gun cartridges, a list of undercover cops’ license plates, and nearly 5,500 Euros onsite. The operation resulted in the arrests of three British and two Spanish citizens.
While this drug seizure constitutes “one of the largest ever intercepted on Spanish soil,” it is certainly not the first joint Spain-UK international enforcement effort to shake the cocaine trade. As recently as May of this year, the two countries, in a joint operation with Europol criminal intelligence analysis, funding, and operational coordination support, detained 24 traffickers and seized 5.5 tons of cocaine onboard a merchant vessel in Ecuador—also bound for European markets. EU countries often coordinate and cooperate with one another on drug enforcement through transnational law enforcement agencies such as Europol. Focal Point (FP) Cola, Europol’s specialized team tackling cocaine trafficking specifically, has been facilitating such transnational cooperative drug enforcement efforts since 2001.
Europol’s role in this operation demonstrates its utility in the EU’s single-market economy. It will be interesting to watch how UK law enforcement’s relationship with the transnational enforcement agency evolves post-Brexit.