Spain seizes submarine with cocaine cargo

November 26, 2019

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The prow of a submarine used to transport drugs illegally emerges as Spanish police divers work to refloat it.—AFP
The prow of a submarine used to transport drugs illegally emerges as Spanish police divers work to refloat it.—AFP

MADRID: Police in Spain have seized a submarine carrying cocaine off the coast of the northwest Galicia region which had arrived from South America, officials said on Monday.

Two Ecuadorian men were arrested as part of the operation on Sunday in the seaside town of Cangas near the border with Portugal, a spokesman for the central government’s representative in Galicia said.

“A diver managed to enter the submarine on Monday and removed a bundle of cocaine from inside,” he said.

Police were on Monday trying to refloat the vessel and they will not be able to determine the total amount of drugs on board until they have done so, he added.

But a source close to the investigation said the submarine was “likely” transporting “several tonnes (of cocaine) but this is just an estimate”.

Spanish media said the vessel was carrying over three tonnes of cocaine from Colombia.

The submarine, about 20 metres (65 feet) long, came from South America, another source close to the investigation said without specifying which country the vessel departed from.

“It is not the first time but we don’t see this every day” in Europe, the source added.

Drug traffickers, especially from Colombia, have been caught using submarines to transport cocaine into Mexico, and from there into the United States.

The gangs often pay unemployed engineers desperate for money to design and make the submarines, said Wilder Alejandro Sanchez, a defence and geopolitics analyst at a US-based think-tank, the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).

Most are only semisubmersible — a ship partially submerged that cannot fully dive like a submarine — but some are able to go 30 metres under water, he added.

“They are becoming more and more modern and complex,” he said.

In September the US Coast Guard, with the aid of the Colombian navy, intercepted a submarine carrying over five tonnes of cocaine off the coast of South America.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2019