A “narcosubmarine” carrying over three tons of cocaine was captured off the coast of Spain, and authorities are calling the capture of the vessel a turning point in Europe’s war on drugs, Reuters reports.
On Saturday, Spanish officials captured the submarine off the coast of the Galicia region. Inside were 152 neatly-wrapped bales of cocaine, weighing a total of 3,000 kilograms, or about 3.3 tons. The estimate street value of the drugs was about €100 million, or about $110 million.
Spanish police, with the help of Brazilian, American, and Portuguese authorities, were tipped off to the location of the vessel in European waters and began tracking it down. By Saturday, authorities had located the vessel. Due to rough waters, the workers on the boat were unable to transfer their cargo to another boat, and instead sank it.
Police arrested an Ecuadorian man or woman wearing a wetsuit at the scene, and then arrested a second suspect, also an Ecuadorian, the next day. A third suspect remains at large.
As for the sub, officials described it as “homemade” and “rusty,” and said it was capable of carrying up to five tons of cocaine. Though its operators had sunk it, authorities were able to bring it to the surface using air bags. Authorities then transferred the craft to a nearby port and unloaded the drugs.
Authorities are still attempting to determine the origin of the vessel.
Javier Losada, head of the central government delegation in Galicia, told reporters that this marks an historic event for authorities fighting drug smuggling in Europe.
“This is a historic operation, one that will mark a before and after for security forces as they now contend with this new possibility,” he said.
Although this is the first time a drug-smuggling submarine has been captured in European waters, using subs to smuggle contraband into, out of, and through the waters around North and South America is rather commonplace.
For example, as CBS News reported at the time, back in September, the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Valiant captured a 40-foot-long submarine carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine, with an estimated street value of $165 million. Crew members were able to salvage about 1,100 pounds of it, but the rest was not recovered due to safety concerns. Four suspected drug smugglers on board the vessel were apprehended.
A Coast Guard official thanked the Colombian navy for its help in the operation.
“The joint boarding successfully stopped a drug smuggling vessel and also strengthened international relations and communications between the two partner nations,” the Coast Guard said.