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Torched RHIB shines light on strait drug traffic

Torched RHIB shines light on strait drug traffic

A fast boat torched on a beach in La Linea this weekend laid bare the scale of drug trafficking across the Strait of Gibraltar.

The boat was run aground on the shoreline close to Alcaidesa early Saturday morning and set alight by its occupants, most likely to destroy fingerprints and DNA evidence.

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It was one of numerous rigid-hulled inflatable boats seen operating to the east of Gibraltar and La Linea over the weekend, once again drawing attention to organised crime in this area.

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On Sunday, Spain’s Policia Nacional said it had seized weapons and three tonnes of cannabis resin during a raid on a house in La Linea.

And in another incident, a man lost part of a leg after it got caught in the propeller of a RHIB on a beach in San Roque.

The spike in activity at sea coincides with the cannabis harvest in Morocco and, despite a law enforcement crackdown over recent months, there appears to be no let-up in the extent of drug trafficking activity in this region.

Francisco Mena, chairman of the Cádiz Province Anti-drug Federation, said 2017 would likely prove a record year for drug seizures in Cádiz province and was “best forgotten”.

He praised the Spain’s law enforcement agencies for their work tackling drug-related crime but called on the country’s Interior Ministry to strengthen their resources, adding that organised crime gangs were operating “with impunity”.

Mr Mena said Cádiz was a key staging post for drug shipments moving from north Africa to the European mainland.

“Drug trafficking in this province operates with an interlocking strategy that means when pressure is applied in one area, the traffickers, who are organised and boast an infrastructure, simply move to other areas,” he said.

“That’s why we need resources across the entire province.”

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Among specific measures, Mr Mena called for a ban on large RHIBs “which are only good for one illicit end” and for investment in job creation and social services, “so that youngsters from deprived neighbourhoods don’t see drug trafficking as a solution to their economic problems”.

He also urged greater involvement from the EU, given that Cádiz “is the first barrier to prevent European youngsters from consuming hashish”.

The raid in La Linea was the latest in a string of similar law enforcement operations over the past few months.

Spanish police said they had arrested four members of a drug trafficking organisation and seized three tonnes of cannabis resin during the raid on a residential property.

Officers also seized two loaded handguns, 12 mobile phones and radio transmitters, 2,500 euros in cash and five vehicles, three of them stolen.

The property had been under surveillance since last September after it was identified as a so-called “drug nursery” used to stash drugs unloaded on nearby beaches prior to distribution inland.

Officers monitoring the property recorded how its occupants rarely left the building and showed no sign of meaningful employment, the Policia Nacional said in a statement.

They also logged how anyone leaving or arriving at the building took “numerous security measures”, including using up to five different vehicles registered to third parties or rental companies.

On December 31, officers watching the building saw a stolen four-wheel drive vehicle filled with blue and beige bales arrive at the property.

Having secured a court order for the search, the moved into the building to make the arrests and seize the drugs.

Yesterday, a second police operation in La Linea in as many days led to yet another major drugs haul.

Although the Policia Nacional has yet to confirm this formally, police sources in Spain said a further five tonnes of cannabis resin was seized, alongside eight luxury vehicles and at least one handgun.

In an unrelated incident at the weekend, a man lost a leg after he was hit by the propeller of a fast launch on a beach in San Roque as he tried to flee from police on land.

Police officers had moved in after spotting four RHIBs on the shoreline of Borondo beach, near the Sotogrande golf club, and suspecting their occupants were involved in illicit activity.

Three of the vessels sped off back to sea but as the fourth tried to follow, its propeller hit the man and severed one of his legs at the shin, according to a report published by Viva Campo de Gibraltar.

The man, who has not been arrested or charged with any offence, was given first aid by the officers at the scene and later conveyed on the RHIB to the port of Sotogrande, from where he was rushed to hospital.

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