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Cocaine seized worth 17m euros on black market 

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Cocaine worth more than 17 million euros on the black market has been seized by police in the Canary Islands as part of a swoop on an international trafficking gang.

The 470 kilos were hidden inside 20 sports bags on a boat which was heading from the Spanish mainland to the holiday island of Lanzarote.

Six people have been arrested, all men aged between 29 and 54, five of them Spanish and one from Argentina. They include the alleged ringleader and crew members.

“The drug trafficking network was responsible for introducing large quantities of cocaine into the Canary Islands from South America,” said a spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard.

The cocaine seized would have fetched 17 million euros on the black market, he added. It was introduced into the Canaries for distribution on the peninsula, with a portion being retained to sell on the islands.

The operation, codenamed “Miami”, was launched with the help of Europol and the police authorities in the United States, France, customs officers in the Caribbean and Argentina.

A yacht and a fibre boat with several high-powered engines were seized, as well as a large number of documents and sophisticated electronic communication and navigation equipment during raids on three homes.

“The organisation had a complex numerical system to encrypt its communications,” said the police.

One of the Spaniards arrested was based in Lanzarote where the 54-year-old Argentinean also lived until moving to South America to organise the shipment of cocaine.

Police kept watch on the ringleader who used a string of helpers who had little income to hide his activities and made sure there was no link between them. The gang also liaised with another drugs network in South America and transferred the cocaine several times from different boats, including on the high seas.

“The boat spent a long time in the Caribbean area of ?Antigua and Barbuda and took the haul of cocaine on board from another vessel in the vicinity of the Venezuelan coast before going on to Lanzarote,” said the spokesman.

Two crew members were found on board.

All six men arrested have been remanded in prison.