MADRID – After an empty “ghost” narco submarine was discovered off the Spanish coast, police said that cocaine smugglers were using these submersibles to get their illicit cargo to Europe because they are almost impossible to detect on radar.
The 50ft submarine, capable of transporting up to five tonnes of drugs, was spotted by police off the coast of Spain’s north western Galicia region on Monday.
The vessel, which was in an almost vertical position with the bow pointing from the water, may have been emptied of its cargo and been abandoned.
Drug smugglers in Colombia are increasingly using these homemade vessels to get their number one export to Europe because they are almost impossible to trace on radar.
“They do not make any heat and do not move much. They are not like real submarines. They are homemade vessels. They are a pretty new invention by the smugglers but so far they are not used on a regular basis,” a Spanish Civil Guard spokesman told i.
“The drug smugglers try to get more cocaine in through the airports or in ships.”
The seizure of the latest narco submarine came just a day after the Colombian Navy seized a 49ft-long submarine with more than 2.6 tonnes of cocaine and two dead bodies in the Pacific Ocean.
In 2019, Spanish police seized an abandoned submarine off the coast of Galicia carrying three tonnes of cocaine worth €100m (£87m). It was the first vessel of its kind to travel 4,000 nautical miles from Brazil to Europe.
The cargo worth millions of pounds may have been heading for the UK, the National Crime Agency said at the time. Seven men were jailed for drug smuggling in 2022.
In March 2021, a homemade submarine was discovered by police in Malaga, southern Spain which they believe were intended for smuggling drugs from Morocco across the Mediterranean to Spain.
Another narco submarine was discovered in the Isles Cíes, a popular tourist spot in Galicia, in 2006 but it was abandoned.
On average the submarines are made in less than three months at a cost of about €1m (£880,000), which is nothing compared to the money which drug gangs make from smuggling cocaine, Spanish police said.
The crew squeeze inside and inhale the petrol fumes while they live in great heat for two to three weeks. The reward for risking their lives can be a payment of up to €50,000 ($44,000) or more.
If they manage to deliver their cargo, they must sink the submarine to hide any evidence from the police.