The largest batch of hashish seized in European waters in years has been discovered in a trawler off the Canary Islands thanks to intelligence from Irish authorities.
Some 22 tonnes of hashish worth € 220 million were found in the industrial-sized fishing vessel off the Canary Islands on June 1. The drugs, which were packaged aboard the ship in white bags, were said to have originated in North Africa and were destined for the European market.
Irish Naval Service staff first reported the vessel as a suspect before members of the Guard and Customs Service of the Irish office of the European Maritime Analysis Center (Maoc) expanded the information within the agency EU drug policy.
The drugs were seized about 90 nautical miles off the Canary Islands when the Spanish Navy moved into the boat on Tuesday. They boarded the vessel, brought it ashore and arrested some of the crew before the cargo was unloaded.
Since the vessel used to transport the drugs was a fishing trawler, it could have landed at any fishing port and been unloaded. It could also have been moored offshore and unloaded via small rigid inflatable boats anywhere in Europe.
The trawler on which the drugs were found is a registered vessel and the Irish and Spanish police believed it was only occasionally used for drug thefts. However, the naval service became suspicious of her movements over a long period of time, and after following the ship, Irish personnel reported her for further investigation.
Michael O’Sullivan, former deputy commissioner of the Guard and current head of the Maoc, told The Irish Times he was not aware of such a large batch of hashish ever discovered in European waters.
He said the information provided by the Irish security services, and their development of the case after initial intelligence, was instrumental in the seizure.
“It was an operation led by the Irish; between the Navy then the Guard and Customs. And without that, would it have been identified and the drugs seized? Very unlikely, ”he said.
“To my knowledge, this is the largest maritime seizure of hashish in European waters. I don’t know of a bigger one. We have had other seizures of several tonnes; three, four, five tons. But not 22 tons like this.
Mr O’Sullivan added that a major multinational investigation was underway, with his Maoc agency involved at the center, to determine the precise origins of the drugs and also to determine how the shipment was funded. While a “European value” of 220 million euros was attributed to the shipment, he said the transport could be worth double that amount depending on where it was intended for delivery and sale. .
Typically, he said, these large drug shipments were funded by several large drug gangs who came together to fund and put in place other arrangements to shift a very large “parent load” of drugs into the hands of. Europe. Not only would such a large transport generate huge profits from a single smuggling pass, but the drugs would also be much cheaper to buy because they were bought in bulk.
He added that 23 ships carrying drugs were intercepted in Maoc’s operations last year and that international cartels were now trying to carefully plan very large shipments rather than increasing their risk by making multiple voyages.