The Downfall of the Sinaloa Cartel in Spain after Cocaine Shipment Discovered in Tenerife


The relocation of 24 kilos of cocaine from Madrid to Tenerife concealed inside two washing machines uncovered the largest logistics hub for receiving, storing, and distributing methamphetamines in Europe established by the Mexican Sinaloa cartel in a residence in Villena (Alicante). Law enforcement seized nearly two tonnes of drugs in the operation.

This marks the largest confiscation of this synthetic drug in Spain and the second-largest seizure in all of Europe. Five individuals have been apprehended in the operation, including a Mexican national detained in Alicante, who was dispatched by the Sinaloa cartel to receive the narcotics and oversee distribution.

A Mexican Citizen and Four Subcontracted Drug Couriers

The other four detainees – all captured in Puzol (Valencia) – consist of three Spanish citizens and a Romanian female, the associate of one of the aforementioned individuals. These ‘subcontracted’ operatives were involved in drug transport and specialised in concealing drugs, especially in concealed compartments in vehicles.

The Police were able to locate these individuals after over a year of investigations that commenced at the beginning of 2023, as informed by the head commissioner of the Central Anti-Crime Unit, Antonio Duarte, along with the heads of the Police Brigades in Valencia and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Marcelino Fernández and Alberto Benavente, respectively.

The origin of the investigations was traced to Tenerife when authorities discovered that a separate drug trafficking group was involved in smuggling cocaine from the mainland to the island.

Investigators learned that the drugs were being smuggled hidden in washing machines, raising suspicions since household appliances are cheaper in the Canary Islands, making it illogical to import them from Madrid.

Subsequently, the Police confirmed that a certain company in the capital was responsible for drug shipments and one of the individuals involved also transported narcotics to Valencia by car, employing significant security precautions.

Trailing these drug transport networks, the Police tracked a van that led them to an isolated residence in Villena. After the van spent one and a half hours parked at the property, it departed and was intercepted by law enforcement on May 6.

Inside the vehicle, equipped with hydraulic compressors, authorities discovered 224 kilos of methamphetamines. The remaining 1,600 kilos were found in crates at the residence in Villena, prepared for distribution. The Mexican citizen was arrested in the operation, which saw the participation of the Special Security Operational Group (GOES).

Villena Residence: Hub for European Distribution

Although the investigation is ongoing, authorities are striving to uncover the origin and route of the 1,800 kilos of methamphetamines. It is suspected that there was a single shipment from Mexico to a Spanish port.

Subsequent to arriving at the port – under scrutiny, possibly in Valencia – the drugs were transported to Villena, where the Sinaloa cartel had set up the logistics centre before dispersing it across Central Europe into countries like Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and even Australia, an emerging market for this substance.

Nonetheless, drug trafficking involving methamphetamines is not seen as a lucrative venture in Spain, as per Duarte, who cautioned that increased law enforcement pressure on organizations dealing in these designer drugs, particularly the Sinaloa cartel in Holland, a key country for reception and distribution, has led traffickers to opt for establishing these operations in Spain.

Duarte expressed satisfaction over the significant blow dealt by the National Police to such criminal organisations, preventing a hazardous drug like methamphetamine from hitting the streets. It is estimated that the 1,800 kilos of methamphetamines could have yielded profits amounting to “several tens of millions of Euros.”

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