Spanish Police Arrest Traffickers Who Hid 22 Tonnes of Cocaine in Sugar

Published: 18 May 2022

Sugar PileA transnational drug trafficking group tried to smuggle 22 tonnes of cocaine consealed in sugar. (Photo: 955169, Pixabay, License)

By Henry Pope

Spanish National Police, in a joint operation with France's Anti-Drug Office (OFAST) and Colombian National Police, dismantled a transnational drug trafficking operation that planned to smuggle in no less than 22 tonnes of cocaine concealed in sugar.

Authorities arrested five alleged members of the drug trafficking group, three of which investigators say had traveled from Colombia to Spain to establish a laboratory designed to extract the cocaine housed in the sugar. The other two alleged members, a mother and son, acted as contacts for the three while they were in Europe.

Police caught wind of the conspiracy in March earlier this year, when agents of Spain’s Drug and Organized Crime Units (UDYCO), with cooperation from OFAST, began investigating a group of Colombian and French nationals of North African origin who they believed were planning to smuggle large shipments of cocaine into Europe.

Drug traffickers have famously found no shortage of ways to smuggle their product across borders, be it in concrete blocks or within the walls of the very shipping containers they are stored in.

In this case, the Colombian cocaine was combined with shipments of sugar. These shipments were destined for the clandestine laboratory in Spain where the two would be separated so the drugs could then be sold on the black market.

After monitoring the suspects’ comings and goings for a month, OFAST agents discovered that the first shipment had arrived in France on April 12 where it would then be smuggled into Spain.

During this time, Spanish National Police identified the three Colombians and ascertained that they planned to receive the shipment soon.

One of the Colombians was a chemist whose responsibilities included merging the cocaine with the sugar in order to avoid police detection. Another member—who police refer to as a cocaine “cook”—was there to extract the drugs from the sugar once they got their hands on the product in Spain.

The final member was determined to be the leader’s right-hand man in the organization, according to investigators.

It was also at this time that the mother and son were labeled as their contacts and as part of a larger criminal conspiracy.

Police waited until they could seize all the assets and make all the arrests at once before closing the trap.

On May 5, French police raided the shipping vessel as it was sailing along the outskirts of Paris and took custody of the 22 tonnes of drugs and sweetener loaded on board. Simultaneously, Spanish police agents arrested the alleged Colombian traffickers in Madrid, while the mother and son were arrested in Barcelona the following day.

Authorities report that they also managed to arrest their main target: the conspiracy’s ringleader who was operating out of Dubai.