Drug Trafficking

With the arrival of Baltasar Garzón at the Central Court of Instruction No. 5 of the High Court in February 1988, and according to the investigation system of the Vienna Convention of the same year, large operations against drug trafficking and drug money laundering began in our country both in local networks and international criminal gangs. Names like Laureano Oubiña, Sito Miñanco, Marcial Dorado or the Charlines Clan became known outside the borders of their towns and the walls of their fortified mansions. At the same time, seizures of caches of drugs increased in size and frequency and investigations coordinated with national and international specialized police bore fruit in the form of arrests, confessions and the dismantling of networks not only associated with smugglers but also white glove drug traffickers who hid and laundered money across corporate networks and other businesses under colour of law.

The volume of activity developed in the Court, under the responsibility of the judge Baltasar Garzón in the direction and management of some 2,500 staff and in cooperation with law enforcement authorities in other countries, exceeded 1,000 cases, with more than 8,000 defendants.

Operation Nécora

Historical drug traffickers such as Laureano Oubiña, Manuel Charlín, Marcial Dorado (in the photo with Feijoo) or Manuel Padin fell in Operation Nécora, the first major drug haul that took place in Spain.

The year was 1990, when in June 350 agents literally fell upon Villagarcía (Pontevedra) in a long-prepared operation, with a total of 18 detainees between Galicia and Madrid. 19 gangs or Spanish and Colombian organizations operating mainly in Galicia were dismantled.

In three phases, 1,700 kilos of cocaine were involved as well as multiple corporate frameworks and real and personal property.

At trial, Garzón sat on the bench for 48 of the defendants, 15 of whom were released, although they were later arrested and tried.

Other Operations

In addition to major operations against drug trafficking, which are also the best known is the day to day work, with the dismantling of minor gangs or the seizure of smaller hauls, which added up over the years are equally or more important than the big blows to criminal organizations.

Among them, the following stand out

1989-90 -. Disruption of the most important Spanish and Turkish networks trafficking heroin, with twenty heads and senior members arrested and prosecuted.

1991 –. Disruption of a U.S. Hispanic cocaine network (500 kg) which resulted in the arrest of senior officials in Argentina, also obtaining the cooperation of Uruguay lifting bank secrecy in the investigation of money laundering.

1992-1993 -. Operation Python. Major hashish trafficking networks were dismantled in Spain with the result that 350 people from Spain, Italy and Portugal were sentenced. The Clan responsible was the Calabrian Di Giovine della ‘Ndrangheta. Reformed members were used with controlled deliveries and arrests through direct judicial cooperation with Portugal.

1992-95 -. Detention of Urfi Cetinkaya the largest heroin dealer in Turkey at the time and one of the largest in the world later sentenced to 30 years in prison. Complex sound recordings and actions in different countries were used, as well as reporting the facts to Turkey for prosecution.

1995-96 -. Operation against the Charlines Clan, with 14 companies involved, blocking 150 accounts, 15 vehicles and 314 properties. The total amount involved amounted to around 30 million Euros.

1999 –. Operation Temple -. This became the largest seizure of cocaine in the world in one intervention, with 13,000 kg plus 208 kg of heroin. There were 39 different nationalities involved. The boarding at sea approach was used authorized by Judge Garzón.

1999 –. Operation Princess, on money laundering of some $ 15 million, including Andorra, Spain and USA.

1999 –. Operation Glass. Network corporate structures with activity inside and outside Spain, by way of front companies in the UK.

2000 –. Operation Dobel -. More than 1,000 kg of cocaine were seized by a boarding at sea and a total of 50 companies were involved.

2003 -. Operation Florence. This was a Colombian money laundering network. There were 20 arrests, important property involved, such as 31 vehicles, a vessel, 120 accounts and financial assets and 30 real estate properties.

2003. Operation Barro. It involved more than 115 officials, resulting in 9,000 kg. of cocaine seized in Bolivia and 35 people arrested.

2006 -. Operation “Grotto.” 193 kg of cocaine was seized and 21 people were arrested on charges of money laundering, drug trafficking, conspiracy, corruption of minors, falsification of documents, fraud, bribery, contravening workers’ rights on prostitution and breach of the Aliens Act.

The total money laundered from the detected period (January 2001-2006) reached approximately  € 360 million. More than 120 officials were involved in the operation.

2007 -. Operation “Chestnut.” Dismantling of an international criminal organization composed of Spanish and Colombian citizens dedicated to the introduction and subsequent distribution in Spain of large quantities of cocaine by sea. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), UK and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) participated actively in this operation.

11 people were arrested (two Spaniards, two Colombians, two Koreans, one Chinese, one Venezuelan, one Guatemalan and one Peruvian), who were carrying 4,000 kg. of cocaine on a vessel that was boarded at sea. 20,000 Euros in cash, three vehicles, numerous mobile phones, several computers and other documentation relevant to the investigation were also seized.

2008 -. Operation “Teide.” An international criminal organization dedicated to the transportation and distribution of large quantities of heroin from Turkey to Spain was dismantled.

As a result of the investigations it was possible to determine that the narcotic substance was sent by sea, and for the first time the members of an organization that transported from Turkey to Spain by this route were arrested.

The vessel “Alper” was seized in which drugs were transported to the port of Tarragona and Sadullah Unnu and four others were arrested, after seizing 325 kg of heroin, a sailboat, two vehicles and fourteen mobile phones.

2009 -. Operation “Cyclone.” 947 kilos of cocaine were seized and ten were arrested.

Related activities

In July 1993 Baltasar Garzón was appointed Secretary of State-Government Delegate for the National Plan on Drugs, which included the coordination of seven ministries and the relevant Ministries of the Autonomous Communities, with its own budget and developing a permanent task of coordination with social organizations and Parliament.

He has advised on drug trafficking in the First Congress of Judges held in Venezuela in 1989; he is the author of numerous papers on organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and financing of terrorism; Speaker at United Nations in April 2000 at the Preconference on Organized Crime and the Palermo Conference on the occasion of the signing of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in December 2000; director of academic courses on Organized Crime, the State against organized crime; globalization of criminal justice; Security and Organized Crime; Human Rights and Legal Security in Latin America I and II (New York and Madrid), among others.

He has written and delivered numerous lectures at over 100 universities around the world on various topics, including: Organized Crime, Drug Trafficking: An Unresolved Problem?; Drug addiction prevention -labour and drug abuse legislation; Rehabilitation and social reintegration of former drug addicts; Drug addicts: victim or culprit?; Legal aspects of drug use; Criminal policy on drug abuse; Drugs and the Media; Drugs and Youth. Attitude of young people towards drugs; The individual and drugs: society, education and freedom; Laundering drug money; Criminal legislation on drug trafficking; Criminal legislation on money laundering; Prevention of money laundering; Drugs and Human Rights; The connections of organized crime and terrorism; Organized Crime and investigation techniques; Transnational Crime in the Palermo Convention; Money laundering, current perspective; Organized crime and its expression through the trafficking of drugs and people.

Publications in this field

  • Organized Crime and drug trials; Criminal Procedure, grief and rehabilitation of drug addicts: “The value of Probation”; National Plan on Drugs. Book of the Year 1992. Reflections on drugs; General policy on drug addiction in Spain; the new drug culture in the social context from the preventive point of view; Influence of Drugs and other phenomena in the world of communication; Space for Security, Freedom and Justice in the European Union; International legal cooperation in the field of money laundering and space for security, freedom, and justice in the European Union; Organized Crime and Terrorism.
  • Foreword to the book “What if my child takes drugs?” (2005).

Published articles:

  • Several articles on: The Mafia and Judge Giovanni Falcone; The fight against drugs: What now?; Collaboration in the journal Adicciones on drug issues; Combating Drugs in the workplace; -Drugs: Phenomenon or problems?


  • Narco: The drug trade as a tool for organized crime (1997).
  • Awards and prizes:
  • Member of the Honorary Committee of the Spanish Association of Athletes Against Drugs; Founding partner of Project Home of Barcelona, ​​dedicated to the prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration of drug addicts;
  • Award of the City of Villagarcia de Arosa (Pontevedra, one of the areas hardest hit by drug trafficking in Spain) for his fight against drugs.
  • Gold Medal of the Order of Merit of the National Plan on Drugs.
  • Silver medal of police merit.
  • Various awards from Associations and organizations in the areas of prevention and rehabilitation of drug addicts.
  • Multiple conferences on drug prevention, trafficking and rehabilitation.