Spanish Tax Authority Intercepts Sailboat Carrying Cocaine

The Spanish Tax Authority has seized 50 litres of cocaine hidden in water tanks on board a sailboat sailing under a British flag. Following more than twelve months of surveillance and investigations resulting from coordination with the intelligence services of the United Kingdom and Portugal, Operation ‘Generalife’ concluded with the sailboat being boarded on 20th November in waters close to the coast of Huelva.

After the vessel was legally searched, officers from the Customs and Excise Surveillance Force of the Spanish Tax Authority arrested two British citizens, one of them a resident of Gibraltar.

Operation ‘Generalife’ began in late September 2011 when officers of the Customs and Excise Surveillance Force in Algeciras received word that a cocaine smuggling operation could be being planned by British subjects in the Campo de Gibraltar area.

After initial investigations and surveillance were carried out on the suspects, officers from the Spanish Tax Authority were able to confirm that drugs would be smuggled into Spain using a 12-metre yachting sloop sailing under a British flag named ‘Poseidon’, which was located at Barbate Port (Cadiz). Given that the investigation involved British citizens, collaboration was provided by the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) from the outset. The Portuguese Judicial Police Force was also involved in the operation.

The sailboat was intercepted on 20th November when a team from the Spanish Customs and Excise special operations boat, ‘Fulmar’, apprehended the vessel and arrested its crew member (F.M.D.), of British nationality and a resident of Gibraltar. Finally, the vessel was escorted by the ‘Fulmar’ and moored at Algeciras Port, where the legal search took place.

After nothing had been found following several hours of meticulous searching by the officers from the Customs and Excise Surveillance Force, it was decided to inspect the actual framework of the sailboat itself. This search began with a search of the vessel’s water tanks, at which time the arrested individual stated that the tanks had been contaminated with sea water.

When applying the drug reaction testing kits to the content of one tank, the result revealed the presence of high purity cocaine. Once all the liquid was extracted from the tank, it was estimated to be carrying an approximate volume of 50 litres of cocaine in a highly concentrated liquid solution.

The dissolving of cocaine in liquid as a method to illegally smuggle it into Spain is not new, but this method has never been found in use on a boat before, where criminals usually opt for a false bottom.

Spanish Government newsletter, La Moncloa, noted that as a result of the investigations, a second British citizen (C.A.P.) was subsequently arrested in the United Kingdom. The operation remains open and the possibility of further arrests over the coming days has not been discarded. The drugs that were seized, the first individual who was arrested and the sailboat that was seized have already been handed over to the Courts in La Línea de la Concepción.