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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?