The regional police of Catalonia, working in collaboration with Europol, have dismantled a drug trafficking network that allegedly shipped 1,413 kilos of cocaine hidden in 800 boxes of paper from Brazil to Barcelona in 2018.
A total of 14 people have been arrested on suspicion of crimes against public health, money laundering and belonging to a criminal organisation, according to a statement by the Catalan police. In raids carried out in several locations around Barcelona, as well as on the Balearic island of Menorca, four replica firearms, three cars and two motorcycles were confiscated, along with documentation, cash and mobile phones. Two marijuana crops with 700 plants and several properties were also seized.
The investigation began in December 2018 with the discovery of 1,413 kilos of cocaine in the store room of a company located in Sant Boi de Llobregat, about 20 kilometres south of Barcelona. The drugs were hidden in 800 boxes marked as A4 paper that had been imported from Brazil. When the workers of the warehouse found the suspicious packages, they informed the regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, who focused their investigation on the owners of the company. This led to the immediate arrest of two Spanish nationals on suspicion of planning to move the drugs from the warehouse to another location.
Another ten people linked to the company were subsequently arrested.
Given the international scope of the investigation, the Mossos d’Esquadra called on the assistance of the European police coordination agency, Europol, which facilitated collaboration between the Spanish authorities and their Dutch counterparts to intercept another shipment of 200 kilograms of cocaine that the same group was attempting to bring into Rotterdam.
The investigation in Spain also uncovered a complex operation to launder the profits obtained through drug trafficking, involving numerous companies controlled by frontmen. These were mainly in the area of property investment but also setting up new businesses, including a luxury clothing store in an affluent part of Barcelona.
They also employed “money mules” who would periodically make small cash deposits in several banks with the intention of circumventing the banks’ money laundering control protocols.