Pubdate: Thu, 24 Dec 2009
Source: Olive Press, The, Western Edition, (Spain)
Contact:  2009 The Olive Press.
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


IT was funded by two businessmen Tomas Bengoechea - aka El Grande - from
Sevilla and Juan Serrano - aka El Apoderado - from Estepona, and was built
by Manuel Clemente, or The Engineer, based in Galicia.

But the 'Narcosubmarine' - which was sold for 100,000 euros to a Columbian
drug cartel - was blown out of the water on its first dive.

Now all three men are facing nearly 100 years in prison between them at a
trial in Galicia.

The semi-submersible submarine had room for just one person, who received
oxygen from a pipe that stuck up above the surface

The nine-metre submarine, believed to be the first in Europe designed
specifically to smuggle drugs, was discovered by police, empty of drugs
but with its motor running, afloat off the coast of Galicia.

Built in a shed by Clemente, the semi-submersible submarine had room for
just one person, who received oxygen from a pipe that stuck up above the

Clemente had agreed to tow the submarine to a rendezvous point off the
Spanish coast in a yacht, keeping an eye open for police.

It was there that the drugs were meant to be transferred from a Colombian
boat to the submarine in August 2006.

A Colombian drug cartel hoped that it could imitate the success of similar
semi-submersibles that are now used to smuggle cocaine into the US.

But Clemente jumped ship when it began to behave erratically on its first

A scared Clemente then made sure the submarine was discovered so he could
tell the Colombians he had been the victim of a police raid rather than
his own incompetence.

Police did not, however, need to be told. They had been tailing Clemente
since spotting his submarine during one of its many trips backwards and
forwards to the local docks.

They arrested him when, in an attempt to pay off his debt to the Colombian
cartel, he tried to organise the arrival of a cargo of hashish.

Meanwhile over a dozen staff working at Algeciras port have been arrested
as part of a huge anti-drugs operation.

It comes after police seized a total of 213 kilos of cocaine from
containers in the port.

The Guadia Civil investigation was launched last year, and in total 24
people were arrested.

Police also seized 26 vehicles and 42,000 euros in cash.

It was the third large haul of cocaine in the run up to Christmas, with
the seizure of 228 kilos of cocaine imported in crates of bananas.

A total of 12 people were arrested as drugs were found in bananas in
Murcia, Malaga and Sagunto, Valencia.

Then on Christmas Eve a ship carrying cocaine worth 375m euros - mostly
thought to be destined for London - was seized off the coast of Spain.

The former coastguard boat, named Destiny Empress, was captured some 200
miles off the northern coast as part of an operation involving Scotland

The ship contained 1.5 tonnes of cocaine which was hidden in the hold.

The Metropolitan Police said 13 people in the UK had been arrested and
charged with various drugs-related offences.

Some arrests have been made in Spain, including members of the ship's crew.

Detectives from the force's central task force, which focuses on major
criminal gangs, were responsible for the inquiry.

They said an international network, stretching between London, Spain, the
Caribbean and Colombia, was under investigation by the authorities.
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