The Spanish National Police and the Guardia Civil said in a joint statement on Thursday that they had seized a record six tonnes of marijuana after dismantling a plantation near Barcelona, stating that it was their biggest-ever seizure of the substance.
They said that a total of five people have been arrested for an alleged crime against public health and electric power fraud.
The investigation began in March 2021, when investigators became aware that the 32-hectare plot in Vilasar de Mar, some 30km from Barcelona, supposedly and legally dedicated to the cultivation of industrial hemp, was in fact cultivating and distribution marijuana on a large scale, camouflaged within the legal plantation.
Posters had been placed at the site stating that the business was ‘Industrial Hemp Cultivation’. The signs also displayed the logos of different public administrations in Catalonia. The site had been run with total impunity since at least 2018, according to the pòlice, and camouflaging its true activity, which was large-scale drug trafficking.
This site was not an industrial hemp plantation since it lacked any permit to obtain CBD (cannabidiol) granted by the AEMPS (Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products), the police said. Investigators were later able to verify the site was dedicated to obtaining ‘marijuana cuttings of mother plants’ for sale to third parties and ‘the cultivation of marijuana plants to obtain buds and subsequent manufacture and vacuum packaging of the same’ for sale on the black market.
The operation saw police confiscating ‘just over six tonnes of marijuana, among which were 3.5 tonnes of buds in vacuum-packed thermal bag’, the police said.
They described the haul as ‘the biggest quantity of marijuana ever seized in Spain’.
Those responsible for the plantation had installed a sophisticated security system with more than 100 cameras equipped with state-of-the-art technology to detect any movement, and which sent images to a control centre with 24-hour surveillance. They also had highly specialised machinery used for the cultivation, harvesting, and packaging of marijuana, as well as for the production, pressing, and packaging of hashish.
Electrical fraud was also detected as the marijuana plantation
was illegally connected to the main electricity grid, with a fraud exceeding two million kilowatt hours and a value of one million euros.
In addition to the narcotic substance, two guns, a knife, two electric-shock weapons and pepper spray were seized, as well as 5,385 euros in cash and computer and audiovisual equipment. Police also found 17 kilos of hashish resin, which the gang were starting to produce.
After decades as the gateway for Moroccan hashish to enter Europe, Spain is now seeing illegal plantations multiply as the country morphs into a cannabis production hub, attracting criminal gangs from across the continent.
🚩Desmantelada una macroplantación de #marihuana en la localidad barcelonesa de Vilasar de Mar, en la que se ha aprehendido el mayor alijo de esta sustancia en España— Policía Nacional (@policia) July 7, 2022
Hay cinco detenidos#Barcelona pic.twitter.com/ziUFAb92zS
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