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Drug trafficking returns to the beaches of Tarragona

An abandoned drug boat in Tamarit, a landing on the Waikiki beach in Tarragona, with more than 2,400 kilos, another barge intervened on the coast in front of L’Hospitalet de l’Infant, another operation on the Mont-roig beach, in L’ Ametlla de Mar or on Riumar beach, in the heart of the Delta. And of course, several performances in Deltebresomething like the town that is the Ebrense reference in this return of drug trafficking to the beaches of Tarragona.

Substance trafficking has skyrocketed in recent months, returning to the levels recorded in the first decade of the century, when the Delta became the gateway for hashish bound for Europe. In recent months, movements and, therefore, operations, have skyrocketed. Between July 2021 and April 2022, in ten months, there have been 13 performances against drug trafficking on the coast of Tarragona. Keep in mind that in the previous five years, between 2016 and 2020, there were only two. The kilos intercepted are also another accurate thermometer of this upward trend: from 4,270 kilos in five years to more than 15,000 in the last year, including the balance of the Maius and Drift Operations, born here but with ramifications in different parts of Spain. .

Boats launched from here
Those interventions, all a blow to logistics on the Costa Dauradauncover a new role for Tarragona, unknown until now: the coast is not a single unloading point for the shipments that come from Morocco, and therefore an intermediate stopover for the drugs that will later go to Europe, but rather for the first time the narcolanchas are also launched from here, which means that there has been an operations center, with boats that were prepared here and that made the round trip to North Africa.

“Dynamics are cyclical”, indicates Corporal Major Juan Carlos Lara, official spokesman for the Tarragona Command. In 2018, 2019 and 2020 there were no operations but it was in this last year, that of the outbreak of the pandemic, when something began to change. «There are several years in which no performance is made. There was more of a focus on cocaine because there weren’t as many entries, but in 2020 surveillance is intensified, as a result of investigations in other parts of Spain. Each judicial police unit has an analysis office, so the one in Tarragona begins to receive information,” says Lara.

Beaches in L’Ametlla de Mar or Mont-roig del Camp are alternatives to the Delta de l’Ebre

All this is part of the so-called Telos Plan, an operation aimed at preventing the distribution of drugs to Europe. It is that same device that intensified beforehand in anticipation of possible gang operations, an activity that manifests itself a few months later, when that warning to the coastal commands about a possible recovery of hashish marketing, beyond Andalusia, is specified. As in a game of communicating vessels, what happens in the south ends up having repercussions here. “The pressure received by organizations in the southern zone has an influence. It is something that conditions. It is cheaper for the bands to put a boat through Huelva, Almería or Cádiz, but the pressure is intensifying so much there that they go up more and more. It is cyclical, when there is a lot of pressure in the Campo de Gibraltar, where the situation was overflowing and new units are being created, it is noticeable here”, adds Lara.

From the Delta to Waikiki
In this movement, the role of the Delta de l’Ebre is vital. «Its same geographical figure facilitates entry and exit of boats. It is not accidental. The Delta is very flat, it is easy to control, As soon as patrols enter they can detect them, “says Lara. Wide beaches and sparsely populated areas are points in its favour, although it is also necessary to know the terrain well and its labyrinthine paths through the rice fields.

But not only from the Delta can organizations live in their Tarragona incursion: Torrent del Pi cove, surrounded by pine forests that protect, in L’Ametlla de Mar, has been a recent landing place, with more than two tons and two detainees; either the Cala Fonda or Waikiki, in Tarragona capital, an isolated and difficult to access beach was the scene of a landing, with more than 2,400, last year, in the middle of August. “In an operation they can carry 3,000 kilos and the hashish is removed by hand, so they depend on what a beach is like geographically, they do better or worse, that’s why they focus on some specific ones,” says Lara.

Surveillance began to intensify in 2020 and in mid-2021 the first actions were recorded

In the fight against drug trafficking, the contribution of the Integrated Foreign Surveillance System (SIVE), a circuit of cameras that covers the entire coast of Tarragona, is vital. controlled 24 hours by agents. This monitoring intensifies depending on the moment, which is combined with the action or the control on the ground. The expansion of the camera system once had a deterrent effect and is decisive in the work. “SIVE agents and cameras cover the entire coastline. They see the traces of the boats and can tell you for sure if it is a rubber, as it is called in the slang, or a narco-boat. If they see it and it is clear, the operation is activated, ”explains the person in charge of the Tarragona command.

towards dawn
But the same objective of anticipating can be reached by pure research, with a very wide casuistry that ranges from personal monitoring of telephone interceptions. “The units are always on top, nothing is ever ruled out, there is always some investigation going on, even if many go nowhere. This is something practically impossible to eradicate”, adds Juan Carlos Lara. When there are sufficient indications, the operation is mounted, for which there are no written rules but there are some more or less usual considerations: they are usually at night, but generally around dawn, as they need some light, they are of a certain complexity due to the fact that they are considerable consignments (more than 3,000 kilos, with bales weighing between 30 and 40) and always suppose a risk to police security: “You have to keep in mind that there may still be 12 people unloading, many have experience, they are trained, so there may be a risk of physical aggression.”

The beach is the intermediate point of a material that, in case of success, is stored in nearby places, such as chalets or warehouses, which in the jargon are called ‘day care centers‘. They remain there until the ideal conditions for departure are met, always with a van or trucks, in a road route somewhere in Europe: “A kilo of hashish is not the same here as it is in Europe. As you go north, the price is more expensive, although there is also a part of the drug that stays here. The AP-7 is an important route in this traffic, but drugs have even been sent by postal parcel in large quantities.

Bales on the sand, in one of the recent operations. Photo: Civil Guard

At the moment, the police balance for the coastal interventions against hashish and the recent complete frame breaks It is satisfactory, waiting to see if the pressure is maintained in the coming months, in line with what happened in the first decade of the 2000s. At that time there were about 20 seizures a year. In four months, seven interventions have been carried out, including two major operations.

Organizational structures spread out in multiple tentacles. «An operation can be born here but branch out in other areas. For example, in Maius, the gang was based in the Delta de l’Ebre but a cache was seized in Seville, on a boat that was going up the Guadalquivir”, explains Juan Carlos Lara. This operation has dismantled a criminal network dedicated to making it easier for other organizations to launch boats, with tasks of a service and logistics company, offering the shares that other clans needed to introduce hashish on the coast of Tarragona.

The intervention of the local population, who knows the land, is fundamental in the organizations

These services were required by networks established throughout the national territory. Links have been found with organizations from Portugal, Galicia, Andalusia, Extremadura and Catalonia. “Sometimes caches are found but the head is not reached. this time the organization was completely dismantled and also it is considered that that will affect all national drug trafficking to a greater or lesser extent», exposes the spokesman. The coup has been important because it has broken the entire infrastructure, which was used to carry out the operations themselves but also to provide services to other networks: “They offered mere logistics. En Maius was a service company that worked for several clients. That’s why other bands will suffer, at least until they reassemble a similar infrastructure.

In Maius the head was native to the area, from Deltebre. In the complex organization chart, the local population is vital: «It is important for the knowledge of the area. They are the ones who know the roads, the ones who know how to move through the rice at night, to avoid accidents». But how do these neighbors get into a business like this? “Works through contacts, normally these people have touched the world of drugs before, with consumption first, then a little sale…»

Drug workshop in Cambrils
The other macro-operation has been Drift, which in April has made it possible to arrest what is considered to be the main person responsible for hashish trafficking in Catalonia during the last year.

The organization acquired its boats in Galicia and Portugal. After transporting them to Catalonia, they were prepared in a Own drug workshop located in a warehouse in the Belianes industrial estate, in Cambrils. In addition, they had a nautical mechanic specialized in this type of boat. He was in charge of conditioning the narcolanchas to reach North Africa, which indicates that, for the first time in a long time, Tarragona is not only an entry area but also an exit point from which the boats are launched.

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