Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Sinaloa Cartel meth bust in Spain is biggest in nation’s history

A major bust by Spanish authorities last week confiscated a record 1,800 kilos (3,968 pounds) of methamphetamines that Spanish officials said Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel was smuggling into the country to sell in other parts of Europe.

The May 6 meth bust occurred in the southeastern Spanish province of Alicante. It represents the largest seizure of illegal drugs ever made in Spain — and the second-largest in Europe. 

Crowds on the shore of a beach in Alicante, Spain, with buildings behind them and a large rock face in the background.
Spanish federal police made the bust in the city of Villena, in Alicante, a Spanish province known mainly for its beaches and nightlife. (Cale Weaver/Unsplash)

Five suspects were arrested, including the leader of the operation, a Mexican national and alleged member of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, once headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is currently serving a life sentence in the United States. 

Mexican officials confirmed to Spanish police that the detained Mexican national is a member of the Sinaloa Cartel, according to Antonio Martínez Duarte, head of the Spanish National Police’s Spain’s Drugs and Organized Crime Unit (Udyco). The other four suspects were three Spanish men and a Romanian woman.

Martínez told reporters that the Sinaloa Cartel member was sent from Mexico to oversee the arrival of and distribution of the confiscated methamphetamine. The drugs were reportedly not destined for Spain, where consumption is considered limited. Instead, they were headed for northern and central Europe. 

Last week’s meth seizure was the second successful operation carried out by Spanish authorities against the Sinaloa Cartel, following the confiscation of 24 kilos (53 pounds) of cocaine in early 2023. 

In the latter instance, a suspicious shipment of washing machines from Madrid to the Canary Islands raised alarms and the cocaine was found inside the appliances. Last week’s confiscation came as a result of an investigation prompted by the 2023 seizure, authorities said.

Martínez explained to reporters on Wednesday how the operation came to a conclusion.

A report by Spain’s RTVE TV network shows footage of Spanish federal police confiscating 1,800 kilos of methamphetamine.

Following the 2023 bust, police detected a safe house and distribution point belonging to the Sinaloa Cartel in the city of Villena. On May 6, Udyco investigators stopped a van leaving this house and discovered 224 kilos of meth hidden inside the vehicle. Authorities searched the house where the truck had loaded its cargo and found the rest of the contraband.

The apprehension and confiscation in Spain on May 6 comes on the heels of the successful Operation Hotline Bling in Los Angeles and the seizure of US $7 million worth of narcotics in late April in the San Diego area.

The Los Angeles operation netted 15 arrests and significant drug seizures of meth and fentanyl, which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration attributed to the Sinaloa Cartel.

In San Diego, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers confiscated 134 pounds of cocaine, 3 pounds of heroin, 2,716 pounds of methamphetamine and 152 pounds of fentanyl from April 15 to April 28. Those drugs were not immediately identified as belonging to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Earlier this month, the Mexican Navy shut down eight clandestine drug labs in northern Sinaloa where tons of illegal synthetic drugs were being manufactured.

With reports from El Economista and El País

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