Pubdate: Sat, 30 Mar 2002
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Reuters Limited


MADRID - Spanish police seized a Venezuelan fishing boat in mid-Atlantic on 
Saturday and landed a haul of almost two tons of cocaine, authorities said.

Police boarded the boat some 550 miles west of the Canary Islands and 
arrested its seven Venezuelan crew in the early hours, a Spanish government 
official said.

The seizure -- Spain's largest so far this year -- was the result of a 
year-long police, customs and navy operation which involved the arrests of 
12 Spaniards.

Interior Ministry official Gonzalo Robles, who heads Spain's anti-drug 
agency, told reporters that the ramshackle fishing vessel had been bound 
for the northern Spanish fishing port of La Coruna and the drugs were in 76 
bundles on the ship's deck.

Robles, who said the 80 percent purity cocaine appeared to have come from 
Colombia, declined to give a street value for the drugs but said the amount 
was enough to supply users with more than 16 million individual "hits."

The drugs had been transferred to a Spanish naval vessel and were now being 
taken to Spain's Canary Islands off western Africa, while the ship and its 
crew were being towed to the Spanish mainland, Robles added.

French police last month found almost 400 kg of cocaine which they 
estimated to have a street value of 73 million euros ($65 million). At 
similar prices, Saturday's haul could have been worth more than 350 million 
euros in the European market.

Colombia produces around 580 tons of cocaine a year, 80 percent of the 
world's total supply.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth