International drug trafficking network dismantled in Marbella

by Lorraine Williamson
Marbella drug traffickers

 

MALAGA – The Policia Nacional, in a joint operation with the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), the Central Office for Combating Internet Crime (ZKA), and the French National Police, have dismantled an international criminal network of drug traffickers based in Marbella.

The group operated from a restaurant in Puerto Banús and had armed escorts for their protection. The organisation is linked to the shipment of over a ton of cannabis to Germany and the seizure of €382,000 in France. Fourteen people have been arrested in the operation, and 28 simultaneous raids have been carried out in Spain (10) and Germany (18), resulting in the seizure of over €180,000 in cash, 7 firearms, and 30 kilos of marijuana, among other items.

The investigation

The investigation began in December 2022 following the arrest of three individuals (of Colombian and Albanian origin) in the French town of Dax. The detainees, who are currently in provisional detention in France, were found in possession of €382,000 in cash hidden in a vehicle.

The French authorities’ inquiries revealed that the seized money was destined for the leaders of a criminal organisation allegedly involved in international drug trafficking, based in Marbella. Connections with Germany, the destination country for the drugs transported by road from Spain, were also established, leading to the initiation of a joint investigation team involving Spain, France, and Germany.

Armed escorts for protection

The leaders of the network, two Germans of Iranian and Moroccan origin, managed a restaurant located in Puerto Banús (Marbella), where they held meetings with other drug traffickers. Additionally, they had a permanent escort consisting of armed Colombian citizens whose mission was to provide security against the threat of attacks or attempts to steal their merchandise by other criminal organisations.

Following various police operations, several drug seizures occurred last summer. The investigation revealed that the narcotics had originated from the province of Cádiz. In June 2023, 140 kilos of hashish were seized in three shipments dispatched from a company in Jerez de la Frontera to another company in Germany. Furthermore, 450 kilos of hashish were found hidden among lemon crates in a truck intercepted in Germany, originating from Murcia. Finally, another 400 kilos of the same narcotic were discovered in the warehouse where the truck was supposed to unload the merchandise.

Cogesa Expats

A restaurant in Puerto Banús as the operations centre

Following these seizures and several European Investigation Orders (EIOs) issued by Germany requesting various measures, surveillance on the suspects in Málaga (Puerto Banús, San Pedro de Alcántara, and Estepona) and Cádiz (Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Jerez de la Frontera) was intensified. As a result, the police identified the organisation’s operations base, which turned out to be the restaurant in Puerto Banús run by its leaders, as well as a yacht moored in Marbella, where the suspects held discreet meetings with other drug traffickers.

Additionally, the investigation has revealed the organisation’s links with prominent members of the Hell’s Angels MC motorcycle gang, both from German and Spanish chapters, as well as with individuals of Albanian and Bulgarian origin, all of whom have previous convictions for drug trafficking.

Drugs transported to Germany via road in concealed vehicles and trucks

The organisation’s modus operandi for transporting drugs to Germany involved hiding the narcotics in compartments (“caletas”) in both vehicles and trucks. Moreover, to avoid detection, the suspects frequently changed the location of their “safe houses” (places where they stored the drugs) between Marbella (Málaga), Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz), and Utrera (Seville).

At the end of last April, the operation was simultaneously executed in Spain and Germany. As a result, eight people were arrested in Spain — two in Marbella, five in Estepona, and one in the province of Seville — and two in Germany. These arrests are in addition to the three made in France in December 2022 and a fourth individual detained in Germany in October 2023.

Also read: Marbella becomes backdrop for shootings

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