Britons and Dutch battle for control of cannabis smuggling

Spain intercepts less than a tenth of the drug traffic from Morocco, writes Elizabeth Nash in Madrid

Spain is targeting a network of British traffickers seeking to control the smuggling of cannabis resin from Morocco to northern Europe via Seville, so ousting the Dutch smugglers who have traditionally run the racket.

The Civil Guard in Seville recently seized 614kg of hashish hidden in a British lorry and on 7 August arrested its driver, Frederick Sheldrake, a 45-year-old Londoner, who is in a Seville jail awaiting trial. He was stopped heading north on the main motorway to Cordoba, en route for Britain. Sniffer dogs found hashish in the doors.

Police say the drugs had been stored in an industrial warehouse in Seville, and that the swoop followed months of inquiries. The investigation began with the detention of another Briton, later released after questioning, and a Spaniard in connection with an underground hashish depot in a house near Seville where the two had lived for some time.

"We believe a gang of Britons is organising the transit of hashish from Morocco via Barbate on the coast near Cadiz, and establishing Seville as an important distribution centre for onward transit to Britain," a Civil Guard spokesman said. "We think they are trying to get in on some of the action that has up to now been dominated by the Dutch." Investigations were continuing, he said, and further arrests were likely.

Some 300 Britons are in Spanish jails, more than three-quarters of them for drugs, according to the British Consulate in Madrid. Most drugs offences are committed along the southern coast of Spain, where a number of high- profile drugs murders have taken place. The murders that have occurred on the Costa del Sol are thought to relate to cocaine trafficking and money-laundering rather than hashish. But Britons in southern Spain are thought to provide natural intermediaries between Moroccan, Spanish and British hashish dealers.

A source in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, said: "Many dual nationality Spanish-Moroccan families living in southern Spain have family in the Rif [Morocco's cannabis-growing area]. British and Dutch residents on the Costa can make the contact. And there is a large Moroccan immigrant community in Holland." A network of contacts is thereby woven for the trickiest part of the process - the transport across Europe - which is what ratchets up the price of hashish on the streets of Britain. Some traffickers prefer the sea route, taking hashish by boat directly from Morocco to Wales, or the west of England or Scotland.

"You could probably buy hashish for less than pounds 200 a kilo from the Moroccan supplier," the Rabat source said. "It would cost pounds 1,000 a kilo if you bought it in Spain, probably arrive in Holland worth about pounds 1,650 a kilo and would cost pounds 2,000 on the street in Britain. Obviously you can make a killing if you come out here to buy direct, but then you've got to run all the risks and expenses of transport."

Hashish is smuggled from Morocco to Spain in crop-spraying planes, fishing boats, lorries and even pedalos, to be dumped on beaches the length of the Spanish coast. Concealing packets inside the body, by so-called culeros, is losing favour due to the widespread use by customs of x-rays. Most of the onward smuggling is done in trucks.

A British drugs expert who recently visited Morocco and Spain said international co-operation between police and customs was "very good", but the figures suggest scant success. The Spanish authorities seized 152 tons of cannabis resin in 1996, and have made some spectacular hauls this year, including the capture of six tons on a merchant ship off Alicante in January, and another eight tons off Cartagena in March. But it is thought some 93 per cent of hashish smuggled through Spain from Morocco slips through undetected.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform