The National Police, in a joint operation with the Tax Agency, in collaboration with the French authorities (DNRED), has intervened a cargo ship carrying 20 tons of hashish. The eleven crew members of the ship, named “Natalia”, have been arrested and the drug, which was in the hold of the boat, has been seized. The boarding of the ship has been carried out by two Customs Surveillance patrol boats, some 40 miles southeast of Fuerteventura. The merchant was at serious risk of sinking, and it is common for these organizations to use boats in poor condition that make their last trip, that is, once they have successfully completed their journey, they are destroyed or scrapped.
The investigation began in January 2021 and was focused on a naval company located in Lebanon, which provided various logistics services related to maritime transport to private clients. Precisely this company was linked to the seizure of 13.6 tons of a cargo ship of its property in 2016 in Libya.
In the framework of this investigation, supported by the CITCO (Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime) and the Maritime Coordination Center, the agents observed how in July 2021, one of the ships they owned, located in Turkey , made a series of significant changes to the vessel’s registry, which raised suspicions. These alterations were the variation in her name, which was renamed “Natalia” and her flag that ceased to belong to Togo to be to Palau.
The investigators monitored the geographical area of action and the company’s link to previous apprehensions, noting how the ship’s defeat since its departure from Turkey crossed the Mediterranean Sea, confirming the investigators’ suspicions, since it was heading towards the geographical area of Morocco.
After detecting the proximity of the merchant to the waters of the Canary Islands, it was decided to urgently intercept it, so the two patrol boats of the Customs Surveillance Service left last Saturday night in search of the target.
Eleven detainees of Syrian origin
On the 8th of August the ship, under the Palau flag, was located about 40 miles southeast of Fuerteventura. Once controlled and insured, the officials detected that the merchant was in serious risk of sinking, as it had significant waterways and deficiencies in the engine. The operatives were able to verify that in addition to carrying out an ordinary transport of plaster, the merchant ship carried a significant quantity of hashish in its hold, for which reason its eleven crew members were arrested.
The boat was transferred to the Port of Las Palmas and docked there on Sunday night. The poor condition of the ship, with multiple waterways and risk of fire in machines, forced a hard work of the officials to keep it on the fleet. Usually, organizations dedicated to maritime traffic use this type of vessels characterized by their poor condition and which are considered last voyages, that is, once they have successfully completed their journey, they are destroyed or scrapped.
Yesterday a more exhaustive search of the vessel was carried out, in which a total of 638 bales were located, totaling 19,876 kilos of hashish. In addition, in one of the common areas of the boat, about 26 kilos of pollen were found, which would have been introduced by the crew in order to obtain themselves a small benefit from the illicit activity. The detainees, all of them Syrian, will be brought to justice by the National High Court in the next few hours