PJ police take part in capture of first Atlantic ‘narco submarine’ believed to be carrying around 3,000 kgs of cocaine

PJ police took part last weekend in the capture of first ‘narco-submarine’ – a state-of-the-art drug-running vessel – that crossed the Atlantic, passing the Portuguese coast and later surfacing in Spanish Galicia.

As reports explain, it’s impossible to know how many of these narco-submarines have had successful voyages to Europe from South America. But this joint operation ‘apprehension’ verifies information that narcotics officers have been hearing about since 2006, writes El País.

Narco-submarines have been caught in the past operating in the Pacific, but never running shipments across the Atlantic.

The operation was closely monitored for three weeks while the vessel inched its way across the sea from Colombia.

Manned by three men – one of which is still at large – it made a ‘technical stop’ in Cape Verde, where it was ‘accompanied’ by a fishing vessel, apparently designed to sound the alert if police appeared on the scene.

Unaware that police were indeed tracking the vessel, the sub then set off due north, entering Portuguese waters and silently steaming past the Portuguese coast.

It continued all the way to Cape Finisterre, before backtracking to the Rias Baixas area of Galicia.

Say reports in the Portuguese press today, the objective will have been to pass the drugs to another boat (in Finisterre) but when this didn’t turn up, the crew opted to go to the Rias Baixas area to unload their haul and sink the sub.

Around 3am on Sunday morning, the vessel surfaced and the hatch opened. The crewmember who poked his head out saw an armada of police vessels, backed by whirring helicopters.

At this point, all the men on board leaped into the water, leaving the hatch open and the sub to sink six metres.

According to local paper Voz da Galicia, the men swam “with items of luggage”, so they clearly knew at some point during the trip down from Finisterre that they had been detected.

Two caught in their wet suits have been described as ‘from Equador’ and a third, reportedly Spanish, escaped into scrubland, ostensibly because “he knows the area well”.

The next hurdle has been bringing the sub to the surface and towing it to a port for inspection.

Police divers have already confirmed the existence of “dozens of bales of cocaine”.

Says tabloid Correio da Manhã, the first estimate points to three tons of the drug but it will only be when the vessel is fully searched that authorities can be certain.

This latest joint operation involved ‘several international agencies’ and police forces, including the DEA (American drug enforcement agency).

What’s not instantly clear is how authorities got wind of the sub in the first place.

Says El País sources have said the 22-metre vessel was “made in Guyana in South America” and has been in operation for years, making “at least two trips a year”.

The same sources said the sub “probably works with two of the strongest drug-trafficking groups that still operate in Galicia”.

Galicia has a long history as a drop-off point for drug shipments because of its curving coastline filled with secluded coves.

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