Police arrested in crackdown on major Spanish drug gangs

MADRID (AP) — Spanish authorities have dismantled two major drug trafficking networks that used corrupt police officers as part of operations to ship tons of cocaine and hashish into Western Europe, the European Union’s law enforcement agency said Wednesday.

Europol said in a statement that 61 people were arrested, including five Spanish Civil Guard officers, one National Police officer and a customs employee.

The operation busted two Spanish gangs — the Tangier Clan and the Sur Clan — believed responsible for smuggling more than 16 long tons (18 short tons) of cocaine and 150 long tons (168 short tons) of hashish across the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain for distribution in Europe.

The drugs were hidden in shipments of tomatoes, watermelons and melons. The agency said the gangs paid off the police and customs officers arrested so the drugs weren’t intercepted on entering Spain.

The operation was the result of 18 months of investigations by the Spanish forces in collaboration with Europol’s financial and economic crime group, which sent two teams to Spain on May 11.

Detail on when the arrests took place, or the identity of the detainees, weren’t provided.

In more than 34 raids, the agency said police seized properties, vehicles, cash and 83 long tons (nearly 93 short tons) of hashish and nine long tons (10 shorts tons) of cocaine.

The agency estimates that more than 60% of criminal groups in the European Union rely on corrupt officials to facilitate their activities.

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