HomeNewsBriefCanary Islands Convenient Haven for Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering
BRIEF

Canary Islands Convenient Haven for Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering

COCAINE / 10 FEB 2020 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

An international drug trafficking network used an often-overlooked set of Spanish islands as a crucial thoroughfare along a key drug transit route for traffickers to capture the European market.

A total of 11 Spanish nationals and one Colombian national awaiting extradition to Spain were arrested to culminate the two year investigation, according to a January 23 Europol press release. Officials also seized more than $2 million in assets from the group.

Coordinated by the Colombian intermediary in Cali just southwest of the capital Bogotá, drug loads departed the South American nation and transited through the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa before reaching other members of the network in Spain, who were in charge of distribution, according to Europol.

SEE ALSO: European Cocaine Seizures Hint at New Possibilities for Colombia Traffickers

The shipments were disguised in caravans traveling from the Canary Islands to Spain, as well as in mobile homes. The network “owned vehicle dealerships, auto repair shops and managed long-term caravan parks” in order to conceal transport of the vehicles, while also using the businesses as a cover to launder money, according to authorities.

Among the millions in assets that Spanish police seized were a variety of vehicles and homes that were listed in the names of suspected frontmen, according to a January 23 press release from the agency.

This is not the only recent drug operation to center around the Canary Islands. In May of 2019, authorities jailed seven individuals caught on board a fishing vessel in waters near the islands who were transporting 1.5 metric tons of cocaine from Brazil to Spain, reported Spanish press agency EFE.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Canary Islands make a convenient transshipment point for Colombian cocaine to reach European shores, as drug gangs seek ever more ways to reach this lucrative market.

But this latest operation suggests that the Canary Islands does not only provide an ideal transshipment point, but also a base for laundering dirty money. The investigation that lead to the latest bust was initially started after authorities observed large cash transfers in Tenerife, the largest and most populated of Spain’s Canary Islands.

This may pose a serious problem for authorities moving forward as traffickers continue to exploit the continent’s growing consumer market for illicit drugs like cocaine. Authorities in the European Union have a “poor success rate in identifying and seizing illegal funds” and “confiscate as little as [one percent] of all criminal proceeds,” according to Europol’s EU Drug Markets Report for 2019.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

European agencies have also been racing to cope with the increase in cocaine entering the region, usually by ports. Multi-ton cocaine shipments departing from Colombia’s port cities "account for the biggest share of the cocaine entering the EU," according to Europol. Among other things, Europe offers traffickers a growing market with elevated street prices free from US interdiction.

When not concealed in shipping containers leaving ports in Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador en route to large European ports, islands off the coast of Europe and West Africa, such as the Canary Islands or the Azores of Portugal in the Mid-Atlantic, provide convenient jumping-off points. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 1 SEP 2022

InSight Crime charts the history of cocaine from agricultural extract to the basis of global criminal empires.

COCAINE / 20 JUN 2022

Gustavo Petro will be Colombia's next president. Cocaine, Venezuela, deforestation - criminal challenges face him in droves.

COCAINE / 9 DEC 2022

Panama has become a reliable drug trafficking logistics hub for cocaine shipments to Europe, as in the recent Super Cartel…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…