The 3,000 Colombian pistols that led to the largest cocaine stash in Europe

Why, when they dismantle criminal organizations engaged in drug trafficking, weapons are also seized? How do they matter? Is there a direct relationship between the sending of firearms and cocaine? Europol set out a little over a year ago to respond to these questions and thus the germ of the so-called "Tayrona operation" was created, which has meant an important intensification in the fight against cocaine trafficking in different countries - Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Greece and the US, among others - and has ended with the seizure of 19,552 kilos of this drug, 583 people arrested in different countries and the analysis of more than 3,000 firearms that were already half forgotten in a weapons depot of Colombia. «They had intervened there in different cocaine operations but no study on them had been carried out. Most likely, they were left abandoned there in a drawer. Now, the Weapons and Explosives Intervention section of the Civil Guard will analyze their traceability by doing ballistic and serial number studies ». This is explained by the commander in charge of the UCO Drug Group of the Civil Guard, who has participated in this Europol initiative and, in fact, moved to Colombia participating from the place in the last phase of "Tayrona". Apparently, a high percentage of these Colombian weapons are Spanish and experts will now try to find out their flow: where they have been manufactured and how they have been exported. "Some could even lead to the resolution of a crime or throw any other type of information about other operations," says the commander.

But what is the relationship with cocaine trafficking? Are they exported by the same routes? Since these weapons had been seized in operations against the trafficking of this drug, those who had all the information about these weapons (owners, etc.) were the agents of Colombia's Anti-Narcotics, so Europol proposed to the Latin country to share all these data with Europe. . Thus, "Tayrona" turned to the complex world of cocaine trafficking research. Europol then proposed to intensify the fight against this drug for three months and two data fusion centers were created to filter all the information coming from South America. For the commander, this was a great step and is, perhaps, one of the great achievements of "Tayrona": that Colombia be involved in this fight and share information. Experts say that the Latin country, famous for its coffee plantations and coca plantations, does have a real interest in ending this scourge because they do not live on it, like other neighboring countries.

FARC dissidents

In fact, the same sources argue that those who finance cocaine trafficking are the former FARC and other paramilitary groups against which the Colombian Government tries to fight. «These groups are the ones that finance cocaine. The Government tries to spoil the plantations but it is complicated and very dangerous because they are attacked, they put mines ... The Colombian Government really wants to eradicate this problem but it is very difficult because it is immense ». And, this fight, beyond police initiatives is a serious social problem. The paramilitary groups have extorted people working there (they work the plantations under threat) or at their own will for salaries that they would not get in the field or in any other trade. That's why farmers see it clearly. “If they plant coca leaf they get paid X and if they plant cereals they pay almost nothing. That is why the work of the Government there is complex because they not only have to eradicate the plantations, but also finance the farmers »and be able to undertake new projects far from this industry.

Dedicated to full cultivation of coca cultivation and its drug conversion process, many FARC dissidents, the ELN (National Liberation Army), and half a dozen paramilitary groups work. «There the Government cannot enter with the Police. They go as a military work, they face military weapons. In addition, they have now banned fumigation and have to go almost manually by plucking the plants, ”adds the commander. Although there are many groups that are competing and working on the same, there are hardly any clashes between them because they are respected and have very limited areas. There is so much that there is for everyone. In fact, cocaine production has not only not diminished, but has increased since the dissolution of the FARC, a problem to which the Colombian Government has not yet been able to respond. Although one of the main clients of these groups are traffickers operating in the US, European experts decided to focus on shipments that would arrive here, to the old continent. These data would be crossed thanks to the creation of these two centers. On the one hand, the Coordination Center of Bogotá (Census), which carried out analysis, choice of objectives, ports and airports. «They are the ones who do the risk analysis of possible cocaine shipments from Colombia to the rest of the world. That information was sent to another center that was created in The Hague, which was the coordinator of that information. Thus, Europol filtered to the police of each country competent in this matter data of possible shipments of greater or lesser draft. The result of this information traffic was in Spain the famous "Star Banana operation", developed in two phases (October 2018 - June 2019) and jointly developed between the Civil Guard and the National Police. Bananero supposed the seizure of 6.3 tons of cocaine in Malaga: the greatest apprehension of cocaine on land thanks to a police investigation. The drug came, as so many times, in a container loaded with bananas. The organization had formerly created two companies to import. One in Costa Rica and one here. Officially, they imported fruit. The drug allegedly left Colombia and, from there, heading to Costa Rica. «He arrived by sea to the port of Setúbal (Portugal). Once on the Peninsula, already in trucks, I went to Badajoz ». Trucks arrived from Romania from Romania: they loaded the container with normal fruit, then returned to return the container and that was the end of the story. All in order. They did it this way no less than 95 times. "They spent four or five months like that and, when they already thought that, if we were watching them, we would have gotten tired, they made a good entry." The 96th truck went to Malaga; this time, loaded up cocaine. They were just over six tons of the narcotic. It is, as explained by the head of the UCO, the greater apprehension in cocaine land by investigation.

100 tons of precursors

After the arrests of Malaga in October of last year, as a result of this first phase of the operation, the agents pulled the thread and reached even two “surprises”. In this regard, they highlight the importance of the close collaboration that was created with the Portuguese and Dutch Police. It turned out that the importing company was of Dutch people settled, like so many, on the Costa del Sol. The agents arrived at a garage rented by one of them and there they found a real arsenal of weapons of war typical of the greatest exponents of crime organized. Tucked into a van and perfectly ammunition and ready for use were, among others, an AK47 rifle, five Skorpion assault rifles, two semi-automatic and up to four hand grenades. There was more. The organization was the largest in Europe dedicated to the trafficking of synthetic drugs (MDMA and amphetamines) and was the strongest objective of the Dutch authorities. But here in Malaga they also had a place where they stored the precursors to manufacture designer drugs in Holland. «They bought them in China and stored them here. It was outrageous what they had, ”acknowledges the commander. At the time the Civil Guard entered the site, there were up to 100 tons of precursors: Europe's biggest apprehension in substances for the design of designer drugs. Thus, it can be said that «Tayrona operation», has given good results in Spain due to the involvement of this UCO group and has supposed, according to experts in the fight against drugs, that great step that is the solid collaboration of the Colombian authorities

The eternal white business

The anti-drug experts in our country insist that, no matter how many police strikes are given to cocaine trafficking organizations, they will never give up their efforts for the enormous benefits that the business brings to them. A police coup hurts them, of course, and forces them to change their method but with that they "crown" (if the drug arrives at destination) once, they can afford ten falls, since they buy around $ 3,000 on kilo there and here it is worth 30,000.

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