Law enforcement dismantle cocaine lab in Spain with 100 kg monthly capacity

On 30 April, the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) arrested 20 suspects after dismantling a cocaine laboratory capable of producing 100 kilograms of the drug each month. A number of those arrested were considered by law enforcement as High Value Targets for their involvement in multiple drug trafficking cases.

Officers from the Guardia Civil, working together with Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seized 21 drums of liquid and solid chemicals used to extract and process cocaine after discovering the laboratory near Madrid.

The operation, which included searches of 27 properties in the provinces of Pontevedra, A Coruña and Madrid, also led to the seizure of EUR 3 million in cash. An additional EUR 10 million worth of assets were seized, such as luxurious houses, vehicles and recreational vessels.

The individuals arrested, of which 19 are Spanish nationals and one is from Colombia, are suspected of having imported tonnes of cocaine and coca leaves from South America to Spain using recreational vessels. They are believed to have chartered sailboats and catamarans from Galicia to South America to transport their illicit cargo into Europe. To carry out this activity, they recruited young men with maritime experience and no criminal record.

The cocaine would be smuggled into different entry points on the Galician coast, before being smuggled inland and to other EU Member States using vehicles equipped with sophisticated hidden compartments.

In order to maximise their profits, the Galicia-based criminal organisation also allegedly ran a cocaine laboratory, installed in an isolated area in the suburbs of Madrid. There they would extract cocaine from the coca leaves.

During the action day, authorities seized large quantities of drugs, including:

  • 50 kg of cocaine,
  • 1 kg of heroin,
  • 1.7 kg of hashish,
  • 1 kg of Tusi,
  • 10 kg of marijuana,
  • 750 g of MDMA,
  • 10 000 ecstasy pills,
  • 700 grammes of amphetamine.

In the framework of intelligence activities underway with its operational counterparts, Europol developed reliable intelligence concerning the international drug trafficking activities of this Spanish criminal organisation. Since then, Europol has provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators. During the action day, a Europol specialist was deployed to Spain to assist with the swift analysis of new data as it was being collected during the action.

This case confirms a new trend in cocaine trafficking, whereby the unprocessed drug is exported to be chemically processed in clandestine laboratories in destination countries. This allows the criminal organisations to reduce their losses in the event of possible police seizures.