By Sarah Adamo
Spanish police seized a 20-meter semi-submersible submarine containing over 4,400-pound of cocaine on Nov. 24, according to the BBC.
When the craft ran aground off Galicia’s coast in the northwest, two culprits were retained but the third escaped. They are believed to be from Ecuador, the BBC reported.
The submarine was on its way from Colombia. Current investigations are determining whether it went all the way from South America with the drugs. The BBC reported that the submarine was refloated and examined following police seizure.
Upon analysis, many from the joint operation between the U.S., U.K., Brazil and Portugal have speculated that the cocaine was intended to reach Great Britain, according to The Guardian. The U.K. National Crime Agency revealed that the cocaine is potentially worth 100 million euros, or $110,181,500 USD.
Spanish authorities initially learned of the craft when the European Union’s Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre informed their counter-terrorism and organized crime intelligence headquarters of the vessel’s progress toward the country. According to The Guardian, the police received reinforcements while an air-sea search was conducted to locate the craft.
The Guardian reported that the NCA’s deputy director international, Tom Dowdall, considered the seizure a victory for Britain.
“‘It is highly likely a lot of this cocaine would have ended up on the streets of the U.K., fuelling serious violence and impacting on the most vulnerable members of society,’” Dowdall said, according to The Guardian.
According to The Guardian, the cocaine — divided into 152 bales — is stored in the port of Aldán in Pontevedra, a Galician province not far from the submarine’s capture.
The trend of transporting drugs overseas is on the rise. CNN reported that drug traffickers have used submarines to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. in June and September. Lately, Central and South American drug cartels have employed semi-submersible submarines at much higher rates.
Europe is more immune to these incidents of “‘narco-submarines’” because the construction of such vessels necessitates expensive materials and remote locations. According to Fox News, this latest vessel was likely the first “‘narco-submarine’” for arrival in European waters to be caught.
Moreover, Spanish authorities have announced this as a doubly unprecedented occasion — it was the first time a submarine utilized in drug trafficking was examined by the nation, Fox News reported.
However, statements from investigators are still unclear on some of the details. According to The Guardian, a statement by Spain’s Guardia Civil read, “The investigation into both the origin of the drugs and the gang that was set to handle them in Spain is ongoing.”
Many are concerned that Galicia’s rías (inlets), which have long provided an entryway for smugglers, is now being used to forge clandestine European connections for Colombian cocaine, according to The Guardian.
“‘Most of the vessel is underwater, so it’s hard to pick out,’” Coast Guard Lt. Commander Stephen Brickey said of a semi-submersible submarine, according to CNN.