Major cocaine trafficking network dismantled as Spain and Netherlands make arrests linked to seizure of 2,300 Kilos

by Lorraine Williamson
2,300 kilos of cocaine seized

In a collaborative operation named “Bandi-Hammer,” the Guardia Civil, in conjunction with the National Police and Customs Surveillance, has successfully dismantled a transnational criminal organisation specialising in the introduction and distribution of cocaine in Europe from South America.

The operation resulted in the arrest of five individuals. Three were arrested in Spain and two in the Netherlands. Moreover, they now face charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and involvement in organised crime.

Port of Bilbao

Furthermore, the arrests are connected to two significant cocaine seizures. The first of which took place at the Port of Bilbao in April 2020. There, authorities intercepted 1,100 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a shipping container originating from Ecuador. The cocaine was disguised within a legitimate shipment of bananas. This breakthrough exposed an elaborate international criminal network engaged in large-scale drug trafficking, employing sophisticated methods to evade customs controls. The organisation had established a network of legal companies that alternated the introduction of containers with legal goods and those containing cocaine concealed within legal merchandise or the structure of the containers.

The success of the operation in Bilbao allowed Spanish police to initiate a broader investigation into this international criminal organisation.

Over the following months, investigators identified several fruit import companies created specifically to smuggle large shipments of cocaine into Spain via maritime containers, all located in Madrid.

Port of Algeciras

Then, a second seizure occurred in September 2021 at the Port of Algeciras, where authorities confiscated 1,152 kilograms of cocaine. Subsequently, a third seizure of 96 kilograms took place in November 2022. Moreover, all these interventions were managed and coordinated by the same criminal organisation.

The evidence collected during the investigation was corroborated through an exhaustive analysis of encrypted chat systems of the latest generation. The organisation utilised these systems in their communications to avoid law enforcement actions against their drug trafficking operations.

This analysis identified the key figures in the organisational structure, located in different countries, responsible for overseeing the introduction of these cocaine shipments into Spain from their origin.

Madrid, Alicante and Amsterdam

In late November of the previous year, the final phase of the operation took place, involving six simultaneous home searches. Four were conducted in the provinces of Madrid and Alicante, and the remaining two in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. The searches resulted in the arrest of five individuals directly linked to the management of the seized cocaine shipments.

The detainees are facing charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and participation in organised crime for their role in the introduction of a total of 2,348 kilograms of cocaine into Spain.

United States

Notably, the collaboration between international law enforcement agencies also led to the apprehension of a prominent Albanian drug trafficker residing in the United States. This individual is accused of directing an extensive drug trafficking network that distributed cocaine in over 15 countries, including Spain. Furthermore, there are indications he may have been planning the construction of an autonomous transport ‘submarine drone’ capable of carrying large quantities of cocaine between South America and Europe. This investigation in the US aligns with the efforts in Spain following the cocaine seizure at the Port of Bilbao.

Baycrest Wealth

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