Police in Spain have arrested 12 members of a crime ring which smuggled cocaine-infused plastic products from Colombia before extracting the drug at three specialized laboratories.
The gang, led by grandparents and parents of the same family, was capable of producing more than 600 kilograms of cocaine each month, the national police force said in a statement.
The ring shipped in plastic pellets impregnated with cocaine: a method that meant the drug was completely undetectable during standard customs checks, police explained.
Police also detained three specialists in extracting the narcotic, who had been flown in from Colombia and worked for 10 days straight without leaving the labs, according to the statement.
The operation was the result of an investigation which started in late 2018 and constituted “the biggest blow” against cocaine handling and extraction in Spain, the force said.
The alleged leader of the ring identified as a man of Colombian origin living in a luxury villa outside Madrid.
Two of the laboratories were in Madrid, with a third in the city of Toledo. One facility was capable of producing 500 kilograms (1,102 lbs) of cocaine each month, while the other two handled smaller amounts.
Police released a video of the raid, showing the arrest of two suspects as well as equipment and chemicals.
Authorities seized 30 kilograms of cocaine paste, one kilogram of cocaine hydrochloride, 600 kilograms of plastic pellets infused with cocaine and 3,000 liters of chemical products.
The seizure underscores the lengths smugglers will go to in order to transport illicit substances across borders.
On May 24, a man died after employing a more rudimentary drug smuggling strategy.
The Japanese man, identified only as Udo N., died on board a flight from Mexico City to Tokyo with 246 packets of cocaine in his stomach.