Navy sub catches drug-traffickers

Officers from the Judicial Police have seized 5,450 kilos of hashish from a Spanish yacht, with the assistance of the Portuguese Navy, after an extensive monitoring operation that involved the use of a submarine to track the vessel. Authorities intercepted the Caribia while it was 46 miles off the coast of Vila Real de Santo António and, therefore, inside the Portuguese Economic Exclusion Zone. Five crewmembers, three Spaniards and two Moroccans, were arrested and taken to a court in Loulé for interrogation. Unusually, the PJ officers acted with the help of a submarine, a small naval escort-vessel and a Lynx helicopter, which operates from a base in the Algarve.

Officers from the Naval Special Operations Unit boarded the vessel, armed with a search warrant, and arrested the five individuals in question, who offered no resistance. They discovered the hashish in 198 separate bundles, each weighing between 25 and 40 kilos.

Gouveias Melo, commander of the Portuguese Navy, explained the unusual procedure: “The submarine is a discreet method, unable to be detected by those we are pursuing and well placed to offer information to the helicopter and escort-vessel about the best position for boarding the vessel.”

The drug-laden yacht was heading for Spain but had originated from Morocco. It is understood that Faro’s Judicial Police had been monitoring the traffickers for some time. PJ assistant director, José Abrantes, said: “For some months we had information about a group of individuals who were aiming to traffic drugs in the south of the country.”