Crackdown on drug trafficking puts strain on Spanish law enforcement
Spanish police and the Guardia Civl have hit drug trafficking networks in the Campo hard, but their success has put great pressure on the judicial system.
Spanish law enforcement officers, working alongside Italy's Carabinieri, arrested a gang of drug traffickers in the Campo de Gibraltar this week that had links to the Italian Mafia.
A total of 44 people were arrested, including members of the "Castañas clan" and the Italian criminal organisation "Ndrangheta".
Officers described it as one of the more important operations of recent years in the Campo area.
But the persistent pressure on criminal network is putting great strain on the judicial network, with courts, the prison and judicial compounds are bursting at the seams.
Among those arrested this week was a prison officer that collaborated with Italian prisoners already serving sentences.
A total of 34 properties were searched in Spain and Italy in connection to this operation, and officirs seized nearly three tonnes of cannabis resin, two and half kilos of marijuana, 72,525 euros in cash, 12 firearms and 14 vehicles.
The investigation dates back to March 2016, when officers detected contact between the leaders of the Catañas clan and four Italians.
Coordination with Italian law enforcement agencies established that the Italian men were members of the Ndrangheta, a crime syndicate based in Calabria.
A member of that organisation was living in Sotogrande and acted as a middleman between the drug suppliers in the Campo and the Ndrangheta in Italy.
Shipments of cannabis resin were ferried across the Strat of Gibraltar into Spain for onward transportation to different parts of Europe, mainly Italy, using haulage trucks carrying perishable goods and furniture.
The men arrested now face charges of belonging to an organised crime group, bribery, money laundering, drug offences, possession of weapons and falsifying public documentation.
A number of European Arrest Warrants have been issued in relation to other people linked to the gang.
And in a separate operation that came to light this week, Guardia Civil officers arrested 57 people including in San Roque and La Linea as part of an operation dating back to 2018. Among those arrested is a Guardia Civil officer.
An operation involving over 200 officers this week ended in the arrest of 24 people in La Línea, San Roque, Láchar, Gójar, Pinos Puente, Fuentevaqueros, Estepona, Marbella y Manilva.
Most of those arrested were Spanish nationals but there were also Moroccans and other European nationals in their number.
The gang ferried drugs across the strait for onward distribution into various European countries using trucks.
Several tonnes of cannabis resin were seized during the operation, as were firearms, cash, stolen vehicles and vessels.
In other developments, there was widespread concern this week about the pressure on the judicial system in the Campo de Gibraltar, with calls for additional human and physical resources.
The NGO ‘Por tu seguridad, por la de todos’ - which brings together law enforcement unions and groups campaigning against drugs – called for better facilities in which to impound vessels and vehicles seized during operations targeting drug traffickers.
Such has been the scale of the operations targeting criminal organisations in this area that a large number of vehicles and vessels are being stored in different locations which, despite varying degrees of difficult access, are being targeted by traffickers who break in to obtain spares.