A submarine seized off the Spanish coast over the weekend was carrying three tonnes of cocaine worth 100 million euros ($110 million), officials said Wednesday.
Police intercepted the 20-metre (65-foot) submarine — thought to be the first of its kind captured in Europe — off the northwestern region of Galicia on Saturday.
They were only able to determine the amount of drugs inside after they managed to refloat the vessel three days later and tow it to a nearby port.
They found 152 bundles containing three tonnes of cocaine, Spanish police said in a statement.
While traffickers, especially from Colombia, have been caught using submarines to transport cocaine into Mexico and the United States, police said Saturday’s seizure was “the first time that this system of transporting drugs has been detected in Europe”.
“This is a historic operation, which will mark a before and after,” government official Javier Losada de Azpiazu told reporters, confirming the drugs had a street value of 100 million euros.
A source close to the investigation had previously told AFP that the submarine came from South America but Losada de Azpiazu said police were still working to determine its exact origin.
A total of 240 agents took part in the operation, which was carried out in cooperation with police from Britain, Brazil, Portugal and the United States, he added.
Spanish police said they launched their investigation after receiving a tip that a “suspicious vessel” was headed to Spain “loaded with cocaine”.
The information came from the Lisbon-based Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC), an international agency set up by several European Union states to coordinate anti-drug trafficking actions.