Spain seizes 17 tonnes of hashish on boat

03 June 2013 - 14:10
By Sapa-AFP
Hashish seized by police. File photo
Hashish seized by police. File photo

Spanish customs agents have intercepted a fishing boat carrying just over 17 tonnes of hashish in the Mediterranean and detained the ship's 14 crew members, all of them Egyptian nationals, officials said Sunday.

Customs agents boarded the boat some 60 nautical miles off the coast of the Spanish town of Fuengirola on Friday and escorted it to the port of Malaga where they unloaded the drug haul, they said.

"The boat we can say is a pirate ship, it had no flag, it was not registered, it had no documents," Abel Gil, the captain of the customs ship that carried out the operation, told Spanish public television.

Customs agents found 654 packets of hashish weighing a total of 17 100 kilogrammes in the hull of the boat, which was in poor condition and did not have a radar, he added.

A customs ship was dispatched to intercept the boat after a Spanish customs surveillance plane spotted men unloading the packages onto the fishing boat from a larger ship which then headed towards Morocco.

"The first priority was finding the crew because you never know if they will be aggressive or not, and then the priority was gaining control of the boat," the head of the team of customs agents who carried out the operation, Rafael Perez, told Spanish television.

Customs agents detained the 14 crew members, including two minors, who will appear before a judge on Monday.

Footage broadcast on Spanish public television showed the packages of hashish wrapped in brown paper stacked tightly in the hull of the fishing boat.

Spain's proximity to Morocco, a major hashish producer, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine-producing region, have made it a key entry point for drugs bound for Europe.

Last week officials said Spanish police had seized a boat carrying three tonnes of cocaine in the Atlantic and arrested 21 people including the vessel's Korean captain and Indonesian crew.

On May 6 police said they had seized 52 tonnes of hashish, a European record, at a warehouse in the southern city of Cordoba and made three arrests.

Spain seized nearly 21 tonnes of cocaine last year, 25% more than in the previous year, and 326 tonnes of hashish, down 8.5 percent from 2011, according to the interior ministry.

That represented 41 percent of the total amount of cocaine seized in Europe last year and 74 percent of the hashish.