CRIME

Two navy corporals convicted of using patrol boat to traffic hashish

Sailors carried 224 kilos of the drug from Ceuta to Cádiz coast

Two Spanish navy corporals have each been sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking 224 kilos of hashish from Ceuta to the coast of Cádiz in 2008. The two sailors, who were identified by the initials J. R. C. and M. F. M. during the trial, used the navy’s P-114 patrol boat to transport the packages, valued at 318,000 euros, from the Spanish North African exclave to the Carraca naval base in San Fernando.

“They brought seven sports bags and a backpack containing hashish on to the patrol boat, which they proceeded to stow,” read the sentence issued by a Seville military court. The ruling is not yet definitive, however, and has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Occasional convictions for drug trafficking by armed forces personnel do occur, but almost never come to light because of the confidential nature of the military code in contrast to the criminal and civil codes.

The court ruled that the two defendants committed a crime against their duties of onboard service for “loading toxic drugs without authorization,” as well as a crime against public health.

“The today sentenced M. F. was observed moving packages in the bow of the vessel along with corporal C. P. by police from the Organized Crime Unit (Udyco),” the sentence stated. “In addition, both of the accused were seen (and photographed) when they were discovered next to the aforementioned locker with the lid up.”

The sailors were convicted using indirect proof — pieces of circumstantial evidence that the court considered proven, even though neither of the pair was seen bringing the drugs on to the patrol boat and the analysis of seized telephones failed to confirm they were used to carry out the crime.

The military court ruling said the bags were covered in a cloth soaked in ammonia to throw sniffer dogs off the scent

The ruling said the bags containing the drugs were covered in a cloth soaked in ammonia in order to mask the smell of the hashish and confuse sniffer dogs in case of an inspection. But Udyco officers already had their Fragata anti-drug operation in motion after learning that navy boats were being used to transport drugs and were intermittently tailing patrol boat personnel up to the time at which they concluded the two corporals were involved.

Among the pieces of evidence highlighted in the sentence were the facts that one of the corporals could not “explain his continuous visits to the patrol boat on the day of the 22nd [March, 2008], when he was off duty, nor the movements made in the bow of the boat and gives an implausible explanation of why the lid of the locker where the hashish was then discovered was found open.”

The accused argued that he was looking for a fender for the vessel, but there were few waves and hardly any wind that day to justify the placement of a new fender. In addition it would have been “almost impossible” to have picked one up “without seeing that the bags were there in the lockers.”

The chief of the Ceuta police Narcotics Unit stated in the investigation that another sailor with the initials M. S. was the intermediary between the supplier and the accused, but there was insufficient evidence to prove it.

Meanwhile, the commander of the patrol boat said the bags could not have been carried on to the boat “without being spotted by the sailor on guard.”

Naval police underlined that “detailed knowledge of the use of the compartments and of their distribution [...], as well as the complicity of the staff on duty” would have been necessary to bring the drugs on to the boat.

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