HomeNewsBriefSpain, Portugal Break Up Argentine Cocaine Trafficking Ring
BRIEF

Spain, Portugal Break Up Argentine Cocaine Trafficking Ring

ARGENTINA / 14 MAR 2012 BY EDWARD FOX EN

Authorities dismantled a smugglers' ring that trafficked hundreds of kilos of cocaine from Argentina to Europe, pointing to the continent's increased importance as a consumer market.

As part of "Operation Patagonia," a joint initiative between Spanish and Portuguese authorities, police seized 393 kilos of cocaine in late February. The cocaine is estimated to have a market value of over $18 million.

Seven Argentines were arrested, five of them in Lisbon, another in the Canary Islands, while the group's supposed leader was detained in Barcelona, reports Clarin.

According to officials, the drug was smuggled in bags of charcoal (pictured above) between the ports of Buenos Aires and Lisbon. Experts told Clarin that the use of charcoal is ideal for traffickers moving cocaine as both are organic materials, making it much harder for authorities to scan and find anything suspect.

Police became aware of the group's smuggling operation last December, after the traffickers apparently left behind a 14 kilo bag of cocaine in a shipping container. The ensuing investigation led to the identification and arrest of the Argentine suspects, as well as the seizure of the cocaine shipment in Lisbon some weeks ago. 

No information has been released about the identities of the detainees, though Spanish police said the group's alleged leader has a criminal history in Argentina and is "well known" there.

InSight Crime Analysis

Argentina has long been a key transit route for cocaine headed for Europe, while Spain acts as the continent's primary gateway for drug trafficking organizations. According to the US State Department's 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Argentine officials believe that the country is an increasingly important transit country for cocaine, due to the aggressive counter-narcotics efforts in Colombia and Mexico forcing traffickers to look at alternate routes, combined with weak interdiction efforts in neighboring Bolivia (the world's third highest producer of cocaine).

So far, however, it is unclear whether the Argentine nationals detained in Europe have any direct ties to the larger Colombian and Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). While such a link would not be surprising given the organizational capacity required to ship hundreds of kilos of narcotics, if the smugglers were acting alone, it could suggest that independent traffickers from Argentina are increasingly keen to exploit Europe's growing cocaine market.

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.

Tags

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

ARGENTINA / 24 JAN 2018

An upcoming official investigation into judicial corruption in Argentina is poised to lift the lid on the country’s highly questioned…

ARGENTINA / 27 MAY 2019

The arrest of the federal police chief in Argentina's strategically located province of Santa Fe on drug trafficking charges has…

ARGENTINA / 25 MAY 2012

Colombian media reports that "Mi Sangre," boss of the Urabeños drug gang and a major player in Medellin's underworld, is…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…