A major anti-drug trafficking operation targeting suspected drug traffickers in southern Spain yesterday included the involvement of officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police, highlighting intense cooperation between law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border.
In a development that is believed to be unprecedented in recent times, RGP officers were present at some of the 24 searches conducted by Guardia Civil officers in a number of localities within the neighbouring Campo de Gibraltar region during the course of yesterday morning.
Raids were also carried out in Granada, in Malaga province, in Cadiz province including Algeciras and Tarifa, in Seville and in Huelva.
The RGP’s on-the-ground involvement in the operation was confirmed by Spanish law enforcement as well as the RGP itself.
“The growing mutual co-operation serves to highlight that organised criminality will be pursued cross border,” the RGP said in a statement.
As a result of the raids, at least 20 people were arrested on suspicion of a host of offences including money laundering, belonging to a criminal organisation, smuggling, possession of a firearm and traffic offences.
Additionally, police seized a vessel in Malaga after it had tried to evade police activity further down the coast.
The investigating magistrate in Spain ordered the case to be kept secret while investigations continued and no further details of the operation were disclosed.
Yesterday’s developments come as part of a wider crack-down in the Campo de Gibraltar region against organised crime.
The wide-ranging nature of the operation reflected how the efforts of Spanish law enforcement agencies have pushed such groups further afield, the Guardia Civil said in a statement.
News of the joint operation generated ample speculation on social media, including many comments questioning the RGP’s involvement.
Police Commissioner Ian McGrail reacted to that feedback on Twitter.
“Much is being debated on whether it is normal for cross-border law enforcement co-operation to tackle organised criminality to take the form of what happened in the early hours of today,” he wrote.
“Please rest assured it is the norm and the right way of approaching the matter.”
Speaking at the annual conference of the Gibraltar Police Federation, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the involvement of the RGP in these raids meant recognition in public of the “fantastic inter-European work” that the RGP does.
Simon Manley, the UK’s ambassador to Madrid, also praised the cooperation, highlighting in a tweet the joint work between the UK, Gibraltar and Spain to combat organised crime.