Police in Spain seize 860 kilos of black and odourless cocaine

By Sam Jones

Spanish police have arrested three people after breaking up a ring that allegedly smuggled hundreds of kilos of cocaine into Europe by disguising it as charcoal and ridding the drug of its telltale scent to render it undetectable to sniffer dogs.

Officers from Spain’s national police and Portugal’s judicial police began investigating at the beginning of 2020 after noticing that a trading company was using a variety of front organisations to carry out suspicious imports that did not tally with their supposed business operations.

They traced the business back to a well-known Basque drug trafficker who had once spent 11 months under arrest in Bolivia.

Close surveillance then led the Portuguese authorities to a port where the contents of two containers of charcoal tested positive for cocaine.

“The modus operandi involved using a complex chemical process to camouflage the drugs as charcoal, a process that was carried out by the Mexican and Colombian cartels who supplied the alleged kingpin,” the Spanish force said in a statement.

“The drug became almost undetectable because its shape and colour was so similar to that of charcoal. Furthermore, the characteristic smell of cocaine had been eliminated, meaning it couldn’t be picked up be specialist narcotics dogs.”

Officers discovered the gang had placed 30 sacks of “cocaine charcoal” among 1,364 sacks of real charcoal to make detection more difficult.

Fifty Spanish and Portuguese officers tracked the two containers as they were taken by lorry from Portugal to northern Spain, where their contents were due to be separated and the cocaine recovered in a laboratory.

As soon as the lorries arrived at the gang’s base on an industrial estate in the town of Medina del Campo, in Spain’s northern Castilla y León region, the police moved in, arrested three people and seized 862 kilos of cocaine.

“This major operation hasn’t just resulted in the arrest of a well-known drug trafficker, it has also yielded one of the biggest cocaine seizures recorded in Castilla y León,” the Spanish police statement said. “What’s more, it’s turned up a modus operandi that hadn’t been seen before.”