A major drug smuggling operation worthy of a Hollywood movie script was broken up by Spanish authorities this week when they arrested 35 individuals in 17 raids and seized 12.1 tons of hashish headed elsewhere in Europe.
Police displayed a portion of the seized hashish, packaged tightly in brick-shaped assortments that filled crates and suitcases laid out for the news media at a Wednesday press conference.
Hashish, often known as "hash," is composed of compressed cannabis resin and contains the same active ingredients as marijuana but in higher concentrations.
In addition to the hashish, police also recovered multiple bags of marijuana, $198,000 in cash, and 14 vehicles valued at approximately $530,000.
The seizure resulted from a successful eight-month investigation that began as a result of an April drug bust of a Madrid-based hashish ring. Authorities were able to track the movements of suspected drug-smuggling trucks using a GPS system, according to The Associated Press.
The 12-plus tons of hashish were recovered from specially designed gas tanks that could be dissembled and reassembled for the sole purpose of transporting drugs from North Africa to Europe, said Jose Luis Conde, who heads the National Police's Madrid division.
According to Spanish police, the shipment was intended for Britain, Belgium, and France, where there is a lucrative market for hashish among other illegal drugs.
Of the 35 individuals arrested, 34 were men, 31 of whom were Moroccan nationals living in southern Spain while three were Spaniards. The lone female was a Belgium woman who was one of two truck drivers arrested in the raid.
According to Spanish authorities, the hashish arrived in southern Spain via cargo ferries from Morocco, where it was loaded into the gas tanks of trucks that contained legitimate cargo, such as vegetables and various items of clothing.
The trucks were then driven to a suburb of Madrid where the gas tanks were dismantled and the extracted hashish was placed on new trucks before being transported to other European countries.
Though Morocco is historically one of the biggest hashish producers in the world, Conde refused to say what country produced the drug.
Conde also refused to put a value on the seized hashish, which he described as being "very profitable."
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