Spanish Police Seize 16.5 Tonnes of Cocaine-Filled Pellets

Published: 09 April 2024

Cocain Spain NationalPolicePolice seized 920 sacks of cocaine-filled pellets, weighing in at 16,560 kilograms. (Photo: Ministerio del Interior, License)

By Henry Pope

Spanish police seized more than 16 tonnes of cocaine concealed within hundreds of bags of boiler fuel pellets and made five arrests, disrupting a multinational drug trafficking organization that moves heavy volumes between Latin America and Europe.

A joint task force comprised of National Police, customs, and tax agents seized the 16,560 kilograms of narcotics belonging to a drug trafficking group, whose members utilized hydraulic presses to fit their product inside of tiny pellets.

The investigation began last year when authorities learnt of the existence of a large-scale, multinational criminal organization that was using Spain as an entry point for Latin American drug loads.

Amongst the five arrested were Albanian, Dutch, and Lithuanian nationals. Authorities said that the group had off-loaded the drugs from shipping containers and then left them unclaimed in a warehouse for months in the hopes of waiting out any potential police response.

Investigators caught wind of the narcotics in mid-2023 following the discovery of what they called a “suspicious shipment of pellets” in the town of Reus.

Police said that the traffickers managed to condense the cocaine down to the point where it could fit inside of millimeter-sized pellets intended for use as boiler fuel.

Past drug trafficking activity in the area led police to believe that the organization responsible was using two industrial warehouses to carry out its operations. One to “cool off” the narcotics upon arrival to make sure that police weren’t waiting just out of sight, and another to extract the cocaine from its pellet-sized prison so that it could be prepared for distribution and sale.

Authorities monitored the warehouse for several months, not wanting to miss the brief moment when the traffickers would come to claim their prize.

Near the end of 2023, an individual was spotted entering the premises in the dead of night and stayed there for several hours before more people arrived in a large truck.

Once it was determined that the suspects were loading the pellets into the trailer, police sprung into action and detained them. An immediate examination of one of the pellets concluded that they contained cocaine.

An immediate raid on the second warehouse found various quantities of illegal synthetic drugs, as well as heavy machinery such as industrial presses, thermo-sealers, and packaging equipment.

Two homes in Reus and Marbella were also searched, where some of the suspects were taken into custody.

All together, 920 bags, each weighing 18 kilograms, were documented into evidence. Combined, they weighed in at over 16.5 tonnes.