This novel modus operandi made the narcotic substance undetectable before port controls
The organization, based in Spain and the Netherlands, and linked to the Mexican Beltrán Leyva cartel, has had the largest amount of “crystal meth” intervened in the history of an operation carried out in the Netherlands
The operation, carried out in Barcelona, Tarragona, Talavera de la Reina and Valencia, as well as in the Netherlands and Turkey, has concluded with the arrest of 16 people and the dismantling of the main route of introduction of these substances into Europe through from the Port of Barcelona
Details of the Operation
Agents of the Civil Guard, in a joint operation with the National Police, the Tax Agency and EUROPOL, have dismantled an international criminal organization based in Spain and the Netherlands, and linked to the Mexican cartel of the Beltrán Leyva, allegedly dedicated to the introduction of cocaine and methamphetamine into Europe through the Port of Barcelona.
With this operation, whose investigation has lasted over three years, the largest intervention in the history of crystal meth has been achieved, with the apprehension of a total of 2,549 kilograms of methamphetamine, 1,370 kilograms of cocaine and 17,000 liters of products. chemicals for the production of narcotic drugs. The operation, carried out in Barcelona, Tarragona, the Toledo town of Talavera de la Reina and Valencia, as well as in the Netherlands and Turkey, has concluded with the arrest of 16 people.
With this police intervention, the main route of introduction into Europe of these narcotic substances through the Port of Barcelona is considered dismantled. Those responsible controlled a novel way to introduce the drug, which consisted of creating hidden rooms in concrete blocks, making it undetectable before port controls.
First phase: investigation begins in 2017
The investigations began in 2017 as a result of the flows of information and national and international police cooperation on an export company suspected of being used by Mexican cartels in the introduction of huge quantities of narcotics in the European continent. In this way, the agents began to monitor a Mexican merchant that could be introducing significant amounts of narcotic substance into Europe through Spain.
This company, located in Mexico, would be at the disposal of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, who, using precast concrete thermal blocks intended for construction, hid the drug inside. In this way, they took advantage of the infrastructure of their international trade operations, coming from South and Central America, to take over the European market for narcotic substances.
The investigations suggested that the Mexican cartels were trying to “break” or “flood” the European market with the famous narcotic substance known as crystal meth or methamphetamine. Taking advantage of the historical cocaine routes that they dominated, they were folding into a new incipient market in Europe with this new substance that they themselves elaborated in the jungle areas of Mexico.
As a result of the coordination of the police agencies, it was learned that in 2019, the Netherlands Police intervened in a warehouse in Rotterdam a total of 2,500 kilograms of pure methamphetamine (“crystal meth”). Continuing with the investigation, it was possible to detect a warehouse in the town of Utrecht, where a total of 17,000 liters of chemical products for the production of narcotics were stored. These substances came from a company based in Spain and in charge of introducing the drug on behalf of the Mexican cartel.
His method of concealment was practically foolproof. For this, they used blocks of cellular thermal concrete, to which they made a hidden compartment inside, thus being undetectable for all kinds of border controls given the firmness and material of the product. In this context, the Civil Guard, National Police and Customs Surveillance joined forces to control the movements of the company responsible for these items, based in Mexico and Barcelona, and which used the port of Barcelona for its commercial activities. All this was coordinated by a citizen with Spanish and Mexican nationality living in Spain and who was also the main person in charge of the Mexican cartel in our country.
Once all the evidence had been grouped with the support of the Special Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office of the National High Court, a detailed investigation was carried out on the importing company and its movements in Spain in order, in coordination with the Dutch authorities, to carry out an action joint effort that would allow the identification of all the actors involved in this international drug trafficking operation and its complete dismantling.
It was detected how the exporting company at the service of the Mexican drug cartels, taking advantage of the existing health situation due to the health crisis, and believing that the Spanish police services dedicated to the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking would reduce their efforts, materialized the shipment of two new containers to the Port of Barcelona, where the State Security Forces and Bodies detected their entry and proceeded to inspect them.
Thus, after leaving the merchant port, they were subjected to a discreet follow-up by the agents until they reached an industrial warehouse in the Barcelona town of Sant Boi de Llobregat, where they were subjected to inspection. There the agents verified, after drilling on them, that a narcotic substance was hidden inside, finding a total of 834 kilograms of cocaine and ten kilograms of methamphetamine on twelve pallets of the 36 transported.
Second phase: new container shipping
Continuing with the investigation efforts, a new shipment of maritime containers destined for Barcelona was detected, for which a strict and permanent control was established over them in order to identify other people or companies that could be involved in their release, customs clearance and corresponding reception.
Finally, the acting units proceeded to open the two new maritime containers in the port area, which left Mexico. Inside, the same thermal concrete blocks were found, packed with the same blue ribbon and the same corporate logo of the Mexican company. Once an inspection was carried out on their content, it was found that inside several of them there were multiple packages with narcotic substances hidden inside, which, once weighed, threw the amount of 536 kilograms of cocaine.
This methodology of concealment inside the concrete blocks demonstrated, once again, the high technical capacity of the Mexican cartel responsible for the introduction of the drug in Spain, this method being undetectable in port controls and requiring great complexity and technical sophistication. to introduce the drug inside in the moments prior to the manufacture of the concrete blocks.
The conclusion of this second phase allowed the Civil Guard, National Police, Customs Surveillance and the Police of the Netherlands to deepen their knowledge of those responsible for the introduction of the narcotic substance, as well as other people who may be involved in it. operation, allowing the dismantling of a drug entry route for the Mexican cartels and achieving the final apprehension of 1,370 kilograms of cocaine and 2,536 kilograms of methamphetamine.
Third phase: internationalization of print runs and attendance at registrations
Subsequently, the police forces of Spain and the Netherlands began to join forces in a coordinated manner with EUROPOL to completely dismantle the organization. It remained to dismantle the upper part of the criminal organization, which would have taken refuge in the Netherlands, where it continued to control its investments and money laundering from drug trafficking.
Said action would be motivated by the objective of hitting the criminal organization, which kept all its properties and profits intact in other countries. Agents of the Civil Guard and the National Police traveled to the Netherlands to support the Dutch agents in the searches. Similarly, Dutch agents traveled to Spain. Thus, twelve searches were carried out simultaneously in both countries, proceeding to the arrest of eight people, one of them in Spain and seven in the Netherlands.
The final results of this exploitation allowed the intervention and seizure of three luxury properties in the Netherlands, the blocking and intervention of nine bank accounts and a total of eight high-end vehicles.
Fourth phase: money laundering in Spain
At this stage of the operation, it was only pending to determine the structure of money laundering that the criminal organization had in Spain, having proven the existence of numerous bank movements with origin or destination in Mexico for high amounts, which were received by the members of the Beltrán Leyva cartel. This remittance of funds was carried out through the collaboration of Spanish businessmen living in Talavera de la Reina and Valencia, who had designed a complex business network to launder the funds obtained through drug trafficking.
On the one hand, the reception of thermal concrete blocks that were exported from Mexico was legitimized. Once in Spain, the companies in charge of receiving them were, in turn, in charge of releasing those concrete blocks that did not contain narcotic substances, contacting construction companies for this. This work was extremely difficult for them because it is not a construction material widely used in Spanish buildings.
These businessmen were also in charge of providing coverage to the organization by renting properties to store those blocks, mainly those that did not contain a narcotic substance inside. In this way, they unlinked their laundering structure with drug trafficking, so that in the event that they were intervened by the State Security Forces and Bodies, their financial assets and economic flows could not be linked to the illegitimate activity carried out. for the Mexican cartel.
For this reason, in Madrid and Toledo large quantities of concrete blocks that the organization had stored were located, and they were likewise inspected. These were shipments that were made without narcotic substances, in order to create safe import channels.
On the other hand, the money laundering investigation revealed the masking of large amounts of money from the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, which were transferred to Mexico using the bank accounts of Spanish companies. These funds, which in all probability were the product of drug trafficking, were entered into the bank accounts of the investigated companies and entered into the Spanish financial system with destination Mexico, without having been able to conclude their commercial origin.
Once the investigation was concluded, the operation related to the arrest of these people was ordered and three entry and search procedures were carried out in which a large number of incriminating documents and various electronic effects were intervened, as well as four long firearms. The two investigated were arrested.