HomeNewsYachts and Cocaine - An Annual Voyage Between Argentina and Spain

Yachts and Cocaine - An Annual Voyage Between Argentina and Spain


Two Argentine restaurateurs residing in Spain are wanted for allegedly using yachts to send cocaine between South America and Europe, highlighting the regular use of private craft for trans-Atlantic drug trafficking.

On July 14, media in Argentina reported that authorities had issued arrest warrants for Gustavo Marano Fuentes and Darío Pereyra Torres, two restaurant owners living in Marbella, a tourist city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. The men are accused of running a drug trafficking operation that has been sending annual cocaine shipments across the Atlantic by yacht.

News of the arrest warrants comes one month after Argentine authorities seized around 1.5 tons of cocaine, valued at around $45 million, in the province of Buenos Aires. Most of the cocaine shipment, allegedly destined for Europe, was discovered onboard a yacht on the Paraná River, which runs through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. Six individuals were arrested in relation to the seizure.

SEE ALSO: How Yachts Contribute to Trans-Atlantic Cocaine Trade

Authorities say the botched June cocaine shipment was not the restaurateurs' first undertaking. According to Argentina’s Attorney General’s Office, the businessmen have coordinated the logistics of at least three maritime cocaine shipments – one per year since 2020.

In 2021, a shipment allegedly disembarked from Rosario, a port city in Argentina located on the Paraná River, that appears to have evaded interception. And in 2020, a yacht reportedly travelled with a cocaine shipment between Salvador de Bahía in northeastern Brazil and arrived in Marbella, where it was intercepted by Spanish authorities.

The investigation into this cocaine trafficking ring, dubbed Operation Atlantis, began in 2018 thanks to an anonymous phone call.

"Pereyra is preparing a shipment of 2,000 kilos of cocaine that will leave Tigre [a city in Argentina’s Buenos Aires province] for Marbella, Spain. Pereyra is number two-in-command after a man named Diego,” said the anonymous caller to police, as reported by Clarín.

Now, Marano and Pereyra’s businesses in Spain and Argentina are reportedly being investigated for possible money laundering.

Marano owns the Tango restaurants, with locations in Marbella and Madrid, known to draw celebrities and athletes. He is also reportedly the sole proprietor of Pasión Tango SRL, the restaurants' holding company, which investigators suspect he may be using to launder drug proceeds, Perfil reported. Meanwhile, Pereyra reportedly owns an exclusive beach club, a shopping mall and a sushi restaurant.

InSight Crime Analysis

These seizures serve as a reminder of how sending cocaine by yacht between South America and Europe remains a popular option for traffickers.

Private yachts and sailboats are attractive to traffickers, as they are not subject to the same oversight as cargo ships and are significantly more difficult for law enforcement to track. In early 2021, Spanish police issued a press release referring to investigations into the vast quantities of cocaine being moved to Europe via private yachts from Colombia and Venezuela.

This proved prescient as, in October 2021, a record haul for cocaine discovered on a yacht was found off the coast of Portugal. The shipment of 5.2 tons of cocaine, valued at $232 million, was reportedly organized by Carlos Silla, a Spanish drug dealer, with a penchant for using yachts. Silla allegedly used yachts to move drugs up the Ría de Arousa estuary in Spain's northwest region of Galicia, according to Spanish police.

And while these seizures highlight how police are becoming more aware of the use of sailboats, the problem is not just coming from Latin America. In August 2021, an investigation revealed how Spanish police are also battling yachts coming from Morocco carrying hashish. It also reported that such sailboats carried hashish to numerous West African nations as well.

Latin American yacht owners may want to learn from their Moroccan counterparts who have apparently simulated boating accidents and even faked being attacked by killer whales to evade detection.

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.


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.


Related Content

COCAINE / 24 JUN 2022

The Channel Tunnel between the UK and France is a convenient way to move cocaine throughout the continent.

COCAINE / 28 FEB 2022

The assassination of a suspected Albanian drug trafficker in Ecuador is another reminder of the increasing presence of Balkan trafficking…


The impeachment of Paraguayan Congressman Erico Galeano for connections to drug trafficking shows progress against impunity in the country.

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…


InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…


InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…


Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…


InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…