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From common thief to hashish kingpin: the rise and fall of ‘Isco’

After two years on the run, Francisco Tejón handed himself in to police on Wednesday, claiming he hadn’t appeared in the infamous Reggaeton music video to make fun of them

‘Isco’ in the infamous music video (r).

When Spain’s most-wanted drug trafficker, Francisco Tejón, was in the police station in La Línea de la Concepción (Cádiz) on Wednesday, he came face to face with some of the officers who had been chasing him for the last two years. “I didn’t make the music video to make fun of you,” he told them. But no one believed him. “That’s too subservient for him,” says one officer. “He’s saying that so that no one messes with him too much now that he has gone down.”

“Isco,” as the head of the biggest hashish network in southern Spain is known, handed himself in to the authorities yesterday morning. As agreed with the police, the chief of Los Castaña gang was picked up in a police car at 7am from a restaurant in his neighborhood – a labyrinth of properties that went from being his refuge to being his prison cell.

Tejón was condemned to a life in hiding that only allowed him to go out on the street with a crash helmet on

The 39-year-old trafficker was last seen “in his element” – in that music video from Cuban Reggaeton singer Clase A. The song, called “Candela,” was published nearly two weeks ago, but it is still not known when it was recorded. “You can see him doing his thing,” say investigators of the brazen appearance of Tejón in the video. Many of the tropes of such music videos are present here: “vulgar luxuries, wild parties, prostitutes and expensive cars.” Those just happen to be passions of Tejón, too.

But with the police net closing in on him, Tejón was condemned to a life in hiding that only allowed him to go out on the street on a motorcycle and with a crash helmet on. Since the spectacular arrest of his brother and colleague Antonio on June 7, he had been trying everything to evade arrest.

For months his lawyers and other representatives had been trying everything in their negotiations with the police. “They offered us everything: cooperation, selling out other people, money…,” investigators explain.

The music video showed “vulgar luxuries, wild parties, prostitutes and expensive cars”

Officers remember one particular incident in the summer of 2016, when he rented a Lamborghini and went “partying with paid-for girls and friends.” Those who have followed him closely recall having entered his house to arrest him, only to find that he was organizing a drug delivery from another location. “You could hear him shouting on the other end of the phone while he was talking to the person telling him [that the police were there]: ‘Stop the boat there!’” He kept his drug boats manned 24 hours a day, and was able to bring in a shipment five times a week. He called his group “the Real Madrid” of drug trafficking, and is thought to have amassed a fortune of €30 million.

According to police in La Línea, he started out at an early age as a “low-level thief,” but has now become a popular hero within the narco-culture that has taken root in Campo de Gibraltar, a place where the traffickers have put hundreds of young people from low-income families on their payroll, and where people get tattoos of the speedboats used to bring in the drugs. These gangs have created a “drug welfare state,” as the authorities have described the situation, one that “feeds a lot of families.”

Los Castaña started out working for Abdellah El Haj, a drug trafficker nicknamed the “Messi of hashish,” and who was arrested a year ago. When he was freed after paying a fine of €80,000, and in exchange for allegedly supplying information related to terrorism, the aura of impunity surrounding these drug traffickers was simply fanned further.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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