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Spain cracks down on Strait drugs kingpin

Spanish law enforcement agencies seized 13 tonnes of cannabis resin and arrested 19 members of the largest gang of drug traffickers operating in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Officers from the Policia Nacional and the Guardia Civil also seized three assault rifles – an AK47, a Cetme and an M-16 - three Glock handguns and ammunition during an operation stretching back to early 2016.
The organisation was allegedly led Abdellah el Haj, by a Moroccan man in his 30s better known by the alias ‘Messi’ because he routinely posted photographs of himself on social media wearing the famous footballer’s kit.
The gang was described as “the largest criminal group trafficking cannabis resin into Spain”.
It used fast rigid-hulled inflatable launches to smuggle up to eight tonnes of cannabis resin from Morocco into Spain in a single night.
The gang operated between Málaga and Algeciras and as part of the operation, which culminated in late April, at least six properties and 14 vehicles were seized, with several bank accounts frozen.
Officers from the Policia Nacional and the Guardia Civil intercepted calls on over 200 mobile phones over the past 16 months, acting on an order from a court in northern Spain.
The ringleader came close to being arrested in Spain several times but always managed to flee across the Strait of Gibraltar back to his native Morocco.
In a recent incident last March, police tracked him to a bar in Algeciras where he had gone to see an Algerian singer in concern.
But when they moved in to arrest him, police officers were stopped by members of his gang and he managed to escape at high speed in a vehicle. He was later ferried back to Morocco in one of the gang’s fast boats.
The Moroccan, who is in his 30s, was arrested in 2014 while he was living in a hotel in Los Barrios, from where he was said to be controlling the gang’s clandestine activities.
Of the 19 men arrested, 12 were Moroccans, six were Spaniards and one was from Ukraine.
Photo: Library image

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