Spanish police seize 5 tons of cocaine in major drug raid

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The Independent Online

Spanish police said they seized some 5 metric tons of cocaine worth an estimated 50 billion pesetas (£200,000,000m) on Monday in one of Europe's biggest anti-drug operations in recent years.

Spanish police said they seized some 5 metric tons of cocaine worth an estimated 50 billion pesetas (£200,000,000m) on Monday in one of Europe's biggest anti-drug operations in recent years.

The drug was found on the "Abrente" ship which was flying a British flag of convenience when it was boarded before dawn, some 350 miles (560 kilometres) west of Spain's Canary Island archipelago.

In a statement, the Finance Ministry, which oversaw the operation, said customs police had been watching the vessel over the past year as it docked frequently in the Canary Islands and on mainland Spain to unload small catches of fish.

Last month the ship sailed to an unspecified place in the south Atlantic to pick up the cocaine, which came from Colombia, the ministry said. The crew of the ship tried to dump the drug into the sea on spotting the customs agents' vessel but police retrieved it.

The haul was said to be the biggest in Europe since Spanish agents seized nine tons of cocaine on another vessel at sea in July, 1999.

On Monday, eight Spaniards people were arrested on the Abrente and another five in Spain, the ministry said.

The ship and the drug are due to arrive in the Canary Islands in three days time, ministry officials told reporters.

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