Drugs haul on beach

Several tonnes of hashish were seized and 10 foreigners from Eastern Europe arrested following a dawn operation by Portimão’s Fiscal Brigade Detachment (BF) at Barranquinho beach, near Carvoeiro, in the concelho of Lagoa. The drugs had been split into 120 bundles and are believed to have come from Morocco.

The raid, involving 12 officers, was ordered after police detected suspicious movements on this small and sheltered beach. By the time officers arrived, the drugs had been unloaded from a boat and the bundles had been scattered around the sand in such a way as to be mixed up with the rocks.

The 10 men involved did not offer any resistance. The individuals, aged between 22 and 40, are of Ukrainian and Moldavian nationality and the authorities believe they were part of an extensive drug smuggling ring. One of those detained was a veteran of the Afghanistan war, fighting on the side of the former Soviet Union. The arrested men – each of whom had at least two mobile phones in their possession – were waiting for the arrival of land vehicles when the authorities launched their operation.

The suspects had been extremely careful to remain undetected. Aside from operating in the dark, they had opted to park the car at some distance from the beach. Authorities now believe that the introduction of new electronic vigilance techniques, especially thermal sensing devices, along the south coast of Spain, is leading international drug rings to choose to disembark on the Algarve coast. This is because drug dealers think there is less chance of detection in Portuguese waters.

Aside from the Algarve’s coastguard’s lack of technology, compared to its Spanish neighbour, almost half of the Algarve coastline is not under surveillance. Video surveillance systems are only in operation in Cacela, Ancão and Galé, but the Barlavento and part of the Alentejo coast (as far as Vila Nova de Milfontes) are without protection. In these areas, as in this particular incident, the authorities have to rely on routine patrols to detect suspicious vessels.