Photo: Juan Sebastian Elcano
Authorities found 127 kilos of cocaine hidden aboard the Spanish navy’s training ship, the Juan Sebastian Elcano, after an investigation in which three sailors - two Spaniards and an Ecuadorian - were arrested last month, Spain’s Civil Guard said Wednesday.
The operation, carried out jointly by the Spanish navy and U.S. authorities, began several months ago with the arrests in New York of two people of Colombian origin and the seizure of 20 kilos of cocaine.
Two Civil Guard officers were dispatched at the time to New York to coordinate the investigation with U.S. authorities.
As a result of the investigation, authorities were able to determine in detail the route followed by the drug and the modus operandi of the arrested sailors.
Taking advantage of the Elcano’s port call in Cartagena, Colombia, drug traffickers recruited several crew members to transport cocaine to New York.
The drug - between 5 and 10 kilos per person - was divided and distributed in the sailors’ clothing so that they could bring it aboard the ship.
The cocaine was taken off the ship in New York and delivered to other Colombian drug traffickers, who paid the sailors.
In mid-May, once the Elcano set sail from New York, the Colombians who had taken delivery of the drug were arrested.
The sailors involved were identified and monitored to prevent any further drug deliveries at the ship’s other port calls.
On July, when the ship once again dropped anchor in Spanish waters, authorities arrested the three suspected sailors.
Last Saturday, authorities seized the 127 kilos of cocaine - which was hidden among the reserve sails - after conducting a search of the Elcano.
The investigation, however, remains open.