BARCELONA – Spanish law enforcement agents arrested 13 people in an operation to break up a drug smuggling ring operating in the Barcelona airport, the illicit activities of which were discovered after they tried to bribe a customs agent, authorities said Tuesday.
Seven of those arrested are airport employees.
Among the 13 people are six Colombians, four Spaniards, a Mexican, a Chilean and a Peruvian.
The members of the ring picked up the drugs hidden in airplane bathrooms or in luggage labeled as belonging to air crews, and they removed it taking advantage of their ability to work in strategic places around the airport, including cleaning aircraft, loading and unloading luggage and other items and assisting passengers, the chief of the police unit at the airport, Pedro Pizarro, explained at a press conference on Tuesday.
The drugs always arrived on flights from the Americas, mainly Colombia, where the network’s contacts hid the cocaine in the aircraft washrooms or checked it into a special holding area in the name of crew members, without the latter knowing.
Later, they communicated by e-mail with the Barcelona ring and told them where the drugs were hidden.
Spanish police discovered the ring’s existence when its members tried to bribe a customs agent by offering him about 10,000 euros ($14,000) for each kilogram of cocaine they could smuggle into Spain with his cooperation.
After 10 months of investigation, law enforcement agents were able to arrest 13 people and seize 7 kilos of coke, 12,000 euros ($17,000) in cash, a starter’s pistol and jewelry valued at 85,000 euros ($119,000) which they obtained from several clients as payment for the drugs.
Police said that workers at the Bogota airport hid the coke in the aircraft and later informed their colleagues in Barcelona. EFE