Spanish authorities seized on Monday the first drug trafficking submarine constructed in Europe, designed to carry up to two tons of cocaine across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Rabat — Spanish police discovered on Monday a nine-foot submarine dedicated to trafficking cocaine between Spain and Morocco, according to Spanish authorities. Europol alleges that the watercraft is the first drug trafficking submarine constructed on European soil.
Authorities discovered the submarine in a warehouse in the Spanish coastal city of Malaga. It was designed to carry up to two tons of narcotics and intended to transport cocaine across the Strait of Gibraltar, according to Moroccan Arabic-language newspaper Assabah.
The bust was part of a cooperative drug operation that concurrently took place in ten of Spain’s largest cities and included over 300 personnel from the police forces of Spain, Colombia, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Europol coordinated and oversaw the multilateral operation.
In total, the Europol-coordinated team raided 47 homes and arrested 52 people for drug-related offenses. In addition to the submarine, authorities discovered a “sophisticated” drug lab in Barcelona, a 15-meter fiberglass boat, 400 kilograms of cocaine, 700 kilograms of hashish, and over €100,000 (MAD 1.1 million).
The close proximity between Spain and Morocco has long made the countries a de-facto route for drug trafficking between Europe and Africa.
In late January, Moroccan police in Nador thwarted a drug trafficking operation born in the country’s Spanish enclave of Melilla.
Authorities seized a fishing boat transporting nearly six kilograms of cocaine, two kilograms of heroin, over 3,000 psychotropic pills, and around 400 grams of an unnamed “white chemical substance,” according to the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN).
A subsequent investigation led to the arrests of four individuals linked to the trafficking network, as well as the seizure of 190 kilograms of cannabis, three illegally-registered cars, and large sums of dirty money.
In 2020, Moroccan police seized approximately 132 kilograms of cocaine, down 75% from 2019, according to the DGSN’s annual report.
Morocco has highlighted its strengthened approach to combat drug trafficking across the country to justify the notable decrease in cocaine movement.
Other experts argue that the coronavirus pandemic played a large role in the disruption of international trafficking routes.
“In many ways, turmoil in the black market for narcotics and other drugs appears to mirror the pandemic’s impact on legal industries struggling with labor and transportation,” wrote Brian Mann for NPR. “Border restrictions and stay-at-home orders around the world have also made it harder for producers to acquire the so-called ‘precursor chemicals’ needed to manufacture drugs like heroin and methamphetamines.”
While cocaine seizures dropped substantially in Morocco this past year, the trend doesn’t seem to hold for the trafficking of other illegal substances.
The DGSN reported that heroin seizures remained at the usual control level in 2020, while cannabis seizures grew by 37 tons from 2019.
Between January and December of last year, Moroccan police arrested 97,564 people for their involvement in drug trafficking cases. The number represents a decline of 23% compared to 2019.