The Civil Guard dismantles a Galician drug trafficking network that used fishing boats to transport drugs during fishing campaigns off the coast of Africa

The Simione’s last African tide filled this battered Vigo-based trawler with 3,300 kilos of cocaine, a much more profitable catch than hake or southern prawn from the Angolan and Senegalese fishing grounds. The ship had been chartered by a Galician drug trafficking organization to send it to an undetermined point in the Atlantic, as if it were one of the hundreds of Galician fishing boats that ply the seas, to pick up the drugs and bring them to Spain. But last Sunday, after days searching for it, the ship was boarded in the north of the Canary Islands by a commando from the Special Intervention Unit (UEI, the Civil Guard geos), who, after securing the packet boat, had to ask their companions to carry fuel because the Simione barely had one more day of sailing before drifting. The boarding triggered an operation on land that has led to the arrest of 13 people in Pontevedra, Ourense and A Coruña, including the alleged person in charge of the network in Vigo.

The ship, completely rusty and badly damaged despite being just 21 years old, was transporting the cocaine on the deck. It had been chartered a few weeks ago, possibly in Senegal, where some of the organization’s members had moved to coordinate this shipment of cocaine, the chartering of the ship, the role of the crew and, also, the enlistment of auxiliary ships both to replenish diesel to the Simeoni, as well as to pick up and take the drugs ashore, already with the Galician coast in sight. The one that had failed was the mother ship with the navigation diesel.

The Civil Guard investigators were able to prove the comings and goings through Africa of the members of the organization, until they knew almost every movement. The operation has had the collaboration of the Senegalese authorities, but also of the US drug agency (the well-known DEA) and the United Kingdom’s National Anti-Crime Agency, according to what the armed institute said this morning through a note press.

Thus, it was assumed that the Simione, 46 meters long and flag of Angola, was preparing to travel to Galicia after roaming the fishing grounds of the Atlantic coast of Africa, where the presence of fishing boats from Vigo is frequent. That is why this route was considered safe and with guarantees of success in sneaking the stash. The Civil Guard noticed that in recent weeks the activities of drug traffickers had “intensified”, which alerted them to the imminence of a shipment. The tactic was to pretend that they had participated in a fishing campaign (a tide) and that they were returning to Vigo.

The Civil Guard deployed its air and sea services to locate the ship, which was sighted and boarded on December 18. After filling it with fuel, she was taken with her three crew members and the marine civil guards to the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where the drugs were unloaded. On land, 13 people were arrested, 14 searches were carried out and “1 kilo of heroin, 1.5 kilos of cocaine, 20,000 euros, high-end vehicles, encrypted electronic devices, sophisticated technical detection devices, as well as abundant documentation and effects of great interest to the operation”.

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