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Spain moves to ban ‘narco launches’

Spain is to follow Gibraltar’s lead and introduce legislation banning so-called “narco launches”, the powerful rigid-hulled inflatable boats favoured by smugglers to ferry clandestine shipments of drugs across the Strait of Gibraltar.

In parallel, Spanish officials will work to strengthen cooperation mechanisms with Gibraltar and Morocco in order to make life harder for smugglers in the region.

The move was announced by Spain’s Minister for the Interior, Juan Ignacio Zoido, following a meeting with Susana Díaz, the president of the Junta de Andalucia, in Seville earlier this week.

It was part of a wider package of security measures aimed at boosting the resources of law enforcement agencies to help them crack down on increasingly-brazen organised crime gangs operating in the Campo de Gibraltar.

In tandem, the Junta will strengthen training and social initiatives in the Campo, which is plagued by high levels of unemployment.

The legislation to ban the RHIBs is still being drafted and Mr Zoido acknowledged that the Campo’s drug trafficking problem would not be eradicated overnight.

But he said a ban on those launches, in particular those equipped with powerful outboard engines, would make their use by drug gangs illegal.

“Wherever they are, they’ll be seized,” he said.

Gibraltar banned RHIBs in 1990s and as a result, smugglers tend to steer clear of British waters even if their vessels are empty.

He also announced the permanent deployment of additional Guardia Civil officers to the Campo, alongside financial crime specialists who will target the assets of organised crime networks.

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