Drugs

Drug bust netting 7.9 tons of cocaine dubbed ‘one of the largest in history’

Anti-drug forces from several European and American countries intercepted a total of eight tons of cocaine in a double bust that is being dubbed as one of the largest in history.

In the larger one, Spanish authorities cooperated with Ecuadorean police to intercept a ship off that Latin American country bringing more than 5.5 metric tons of cocaine to Spain.

The ship was loaded with Colombian cocaine in the Pacific and planned to travel through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic to Europe, officials said in a statement.

In a separate drug seizure, Spanish police stopped a Venezuela-flagged fishing vessel carrying 2.5 metric tons of cocaine near Martinica.

The ship was intercepted on May 4 and was towed to Las Palmas in Spain's Canary Islands.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Britain's National Crime Agency also took part in the joint operation.

The cargo seized off the coast of Ecuador has an estimated value of $250 million. Ecuadorean agents boarded it when it was almost three nautical miles off Santa Elena province.

Spain’s Interior Minister Juan Ignocio Zoido said to El Pais that the first operation resulted in the capture of 24 suspected drug traffickers.

"It is one of the largest cocaine seizures in history and it takes apart a large drug-trafficking organization between South America and Spain," he said.

The massive operation began after Spain found out in January that a South American ring with links in Spain was organizing a large shipment.

That information was corroborated by intelligence also gathered by the U.S., Britain and Portugal, the statement said.

Since the beginning of 2017, Ecuador has confiscated about 30 tons of cocaine.

Large seizures of cocaine and cannabis aren't uncommon in the Iberian Peninsula, which is seen as a drug gateway to Europe.

Spanish police captured almost eight metric tons of cocaine from four vessels in 2015 and 2016 and arrested 80 people, the police statement said.

The AP contributed to this report.