Pubdate: Sat, 05 Jan 2002
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: Giles Tremlett


Spanish prosecutors began investigating three judges and a prison 
psychiatrist yesterday after one of the country's most notorious alleged 
drug traffickers was allowed out of prison on bail and immediately skipped 
the country. Carlos Ruiz Santamaria, whom the prosecution want jailed for 
60 years and fined UKP280m on charges of smuggling drugs into Spain, 
disappeared late last month after paying an UKP18,000 bond to get out of 

Outraged politicians, newspapers and the police blame the judges.

But a psychiatrist had recommended his release because he was suffering 
severe depression and the three judges in the national court in Madrid - 
roughly equivalent to Britain's high court - gave him bail on humanitarian 

Mr Ruiz, who was to be tried on January 14, disappeared shortly Christmas 
and is now believed to be in Portugal or Latin America.

Mr Ruiz, alias El Negro, said to head one of Spain's biggest drug gangs, 
was charged with smuggling 11 tonnes of cocaine into the country.

The police claimed that he was the contact man in Spain for at least two 
big Colombian drug rings, the Bogota and and Costa cartels.

He allegedly hired Spanish fishing boats to carry the drugs into Spain and 
was in charge of their distribution, they said.

Spain has become one of the main points for bringing Colombian cocaine into 
Europe, thanks to the close ties between traffickers in the north-western 
region of Galicia and the South American cartels.

The psychiatrist at Madrid's Valdemoro prison diagnosed Mr Ruiz as 
suffering from extreme depression and said there was a risk that he might 
commit suicide. He had lost 15kg in prison and suffered from wild mood swings.

He was considered dangerous and had threatened those who were arrested with 

The judges ignored the protests of the prosecution, who said that his 
alleged depression could be treated in a prison hospital, and released him 
on December 22.

The decision was criticised by Spanish newspapers, which predicted that he 
would disappear.

He was meant to report to the police and attend an out-patients' 
psychiatric unit, but has not been seen since his release.

The prosecutors have been ordered by the general council of the judicial 
system, which oversees judges, to look into the case.
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