Crew in court after 10-ton cocaine seizure

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The Independent Online
A CREW of Russians and Belorussians arrested by Spanish police on a ship carrying 10 tons of cocaine are to be brought to Madrid today for questioning by Judge Baltasar Garzon, whose investigations have produced Europe's biggest drug haul.

Judge Garzon's inquiries have been going on for several months and are seen as a further triumph for the man who earned the nickname "Superjudge" for his daring pursuit of Galician drug-smuggling clans in the 1980s. More recently he asked Britain to extraditeChile's former dictator General Pinochet.

The haul is the world's second largest, after a 20-ton haul in the United States in 1995. Spanish police say the capture of the Panamanian- registered Tammsaare on the high seas last week enabled them to dismantle a vast Spanish-Colombian drug-smuggling network.

The drugs were brought to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, where they were due to be burnt in huge ovens in a military compound.

After interrogation of the 15 crew members, a further five tons of cocaine were seized in a half-built house near the north-western Spanish port of A Coruna in Galicia, while 200kg of heroin was found in a warehouse near Madrid.

The crew were due to be questioned further in court by Judge Garzon. So far 57 people have been arrested in Spain since the Tammsaare was seized.

Police announced the seizure only after the Tammsaare'scargo had been safely transhipped to a Spanish customs vessel, which landed in Las Palmas on Saturday. They are looking for another five tons of drugs which they believe were smuggled to Spain in April.