Spain tries to refloat ‘narco-submarine’ with suspected 3,000kg cocaine on board

Two South-American men detained as part of the operation while third man escaped

Agents of the Underwater Activities Special Group, of the Spanish Civil Guard, start operations to float the submarine. Photograph: Salvador Sas/EPA

Agents of the Underwater Activities Special Group, of the Spanish Civil Guard, start operations to float the submarine. Photograph: Salvador Sas/EPA

 

Spanish police and customs officers are trying to refloat an apparent “narco-submarine” that ran aground off the coast of Galicia while carrying a reported three tonnes of cocaine.

Two people were arrested on Sunday morning while a third man escaped after the vessel was intercepted in an estuarine inlet in the north-western Spanish region.

“Early this morning an international operation was able to locate a small submarine about 20 metres long near the beach of Hio in the province of Pontevedra, ” a source with the central government’s delegation to Galicia told Reuters.

The central government’s delegate, Javier Losada, told Radio Galega that the seizure had also involved Spanish officers from the Guardia Civil, national police and customs service.

Although narco-subs have been used regularly in Colombia and other parts of South and Central America for more than 25 years, they remain a novelty in European waters.

The Spanish news agency Efe quoted Guardia Civil sources, who claimed that the boat was carrying around 3,000kg of cocaine. However, the source told Reuters that while the submarine appeared to be carrying drugs, its cargo had yet to be confirmed.

The Guardia Civil and national police force said they had no further details on the matter.

Losada said efforts to raise the sub were being hampered by difficult weather conditions and by a lack of resources.

Helicopters and flotation equipment have been dispatched to the area, which lies south-west of Pontevedra, but the majority of available resources are being used to try to refloat the Blue Star, a chemical tanker that ran aground off Galicia on November 22nd.

In 2011, six men were jailed for two years for attempting to use a homemade submarine in a failed attempt to bring 750kg of cocaine into Galicia. Their sentences were later increased by a year by Spain’s supreme court on the grounds that use of such a vessel constituted an aggravating factor.

The region’s rias, or inlets, have long been a smuggler’s paradise, but recent years have seen local drug clans use them as the main European entry point of Colombian cocaine.–Guardian