Suspected smugglers capsize tanker during drugs raid

Authorities in Spain have seized around three tonnes of cocaine from a ship that was still at sea off the coast of Ribadeo, Lugo in the Bay of Biscay.

Thwarting initial attempts to hide the evidence – as the crew attempted to sink the 52m tanker Nehir – national police, Guardia Civil, Customs officials and the Spanish navy worked together.

According to EuroWeekly, the traffickers had planned to move the drugs to other smaller vessels as it passed by the coast of Galicia. The drugs would then have been distributed to several European countries.

As the joint forces approached, the crew attempted to sink the tanker, seemingly opening all the valves in the engine room. The authorities managed to board the tanker and seized nine crew and the drugs.

The tanker later capsized. The wreck is said to be drifting under constant surveillance and a spill-response vessel has been dispatched to contain any pollution.

Nehir, built in 2015, is being closely supervised by the María de Maeztu, a maritime rescue vessel. She has the support of the Sasemar 102 aircraft as well as rescue personnel from France, reports El Comercio, and has equipment to contain, and remove, any hydrocarbon.

The investigation began in May of last year says EuroWeekly, after officials learned of the alleged illegal activities.

When officers realised weather conditions meant Nehir would not be able to transfer its load to smaller boats, police decided to intercept the vessel.

A Spanish navy boat, alongside a helicopter and boats from maritime service of the Gijon Guardia Civil and customs, located the ship, which is said to have had several large packages on board.

Depending on its purity, the cache could have reached a price of between €100 and €153m on the black market, reports El Comercio.

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