A criminal organization dedicated to drug trafficking decided to change its business strategy by setting up a large laboratory to produce methamphetamines (MDMA), synthetic drugs. The two leaders of the gang, known in Spain for drug trafficking, have hired two Dutch chemists with extensive experience in the production of narcotics and an extensive criminal record. From Altea (Alicante, population 23,820), the city where they were stationed, they moved their operations center until they found a run-down country house hidden in a remote forest area of Sueca (Valencia, population 28,086). A police investigation managed to find this hiding place and thus dismantle one of the largest drug laboratories discovered in Spain.
The operation ended on January 17 with 12 people arrested, suspected members of an international drug distribution network, four of whom, the two ringleaders and the chemist, were detained on the orders of a court in Benidorm. Investigators seized 1,900 liters of MDMA, which, after a crystallization process, police calculated would have been converted into more than two tons of ecstasy pills with a market value of 105 million euros.
Operation Chamizo, named for the precarious accommodation in which the laboratory was located, began last October. A rumor about the existence of a possible drug laboratory on the Levante Peninsula had reached the drug group's headquarters in the Benidorm police station. The investigation began with the surveillance of two people who were linked and were eventually arrested. The surveillance of these two suspects led to the identification of all members of the group, including the leaders and two Dutch nationals who specialize in chemical drug treatment. One of them had actually already been arrested in his country for his links to the drug trade. They all led “normal lives,” said Víctor Galvañ, head of the investigation, in a press conference also attended by the head of the Benidorm police station, Ceferino Serrano, and the inspector of the General Justice police station, Juan de Mata, Muñoz Molina. “They did not use countersurveillance maneuvers, they did not try to deceive, they drove at normal speed,” Galvañ continues. Those observed were conventional types whose only similarity apparently was “that they didn’t have a job.”
All those arrested shared something different. Their constant coming and going to the Valencian community of Sueca, famous for its rice cultivation, half an hour from Valencia and 100 kilometers from Altea, where those involved lived. Once there, the suspected criminals entered a remote wooded area where a narrow and dilapidated path was the only entrance to a dilapidated country house with rickety doors and half-finished walls. The investigators discovered that the twelve members of the criminal gang often went to Chamizo. They wore all protective measures such as masks or personal protective equipment (PPE) and changed their clothes every time they left the premises. They transported copious amounts of plastic jugs in vehicles of different brands and colors, which they rotated on each trip. Officers also noticed a strong chemical smell from outside. No further signs were necessary. Everything indicated that this rustic and forlorn house housed a drug laboratory.
A person in Alicante looks at the material confiscated by the National Police as part of Operation Chamizo, which dismantled one of the largest ecstasy production laboratories in Spain.MORELL (EFE)
The prosecution of the suspects also established a hierarchy and a clearly defined distribution of tasks. In addition to the ringleaders and the pharmacists, one of those questioned was also the driver of the rest of the gang. Another took the material to so-called nurseries, warehouses, before it was sold to consumers. A third member was the security guard who prevented robberies by other gangs, while another member of the group took advantage of the fact that he had no criminal record to hand over his papers when renting houses from which they frequently moved.
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On January 17, officers decided to stop two of the suspects who were leaving the lab in a vehicle loaded with several bottles. Both attacked the officers, who survived the attempted attack uninjured. A chase of just 200 to 300 meters began, after which the police managed to arrest the criminals and confiscate two five-liter containers with amphetamine in them. The police intervention had to be accelerated. The next day, January 18, the remaining arrests and searches took place. Investigators may not have found anything in the Altea houses because a day had passed since the first arrests. The houses used by the gang “smell strongly of ammonia, as if all areas had been cleaned and the machinery removed,” Galvañ says.
The interior of the country house, on the other hand, collected between its peeling walls, without a trace of furniture, all the material necessary for MDMA treatment, stacked and distributed in the different rooms according to their function. From the containers containing 1,900 liters of methamphetamine, 1,000 liters of accelerators and precursors and another 1,000 liters of chemical waste, to huge decanters, decanters, lathes, ovens, test tubes or precision balances. A material that would have brought 2,185 kilos of pills worth a total of 105 million euros onto the streets. In addition, investigators discovered some pipes that were used to pour leftover chemical substances into the field. The operation culminated in the arrest of twelve people, two Dutch, a Spaniard and a Moroccan, accused of crimes against public health, belonging to a criminal organization and another against the environment for illegal waste disposal. After being handed over to Benidorm Investigative Court 2, four of them were taken to prison.
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