An illegal ‘taxi service’ that aided the passage of immigrants from North Africa to Spain’s Almeria coast has been dismantled by police
The Guardia Civil, as part of operation ‘Flixita’, has arrested 19 individuals belonging to a criminal network that facilitated irregular immigration via fast taxi boats from North Africa to the Almeria coast.
The group charged migrants up to 5,000 euros per person for the illegal transfers, which could carry between 10 and 15 people at a time. The network took advantage of these transfers to smuggle stolen goods, mainly mobile phones, and drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine from Spain to Algeria, where these drugs are scarce, resulting in higher profits. The group would often coordinate multiple simultaneous departures of fast boats to challenge the Guardia Civil’s efforts to intercept them.
Agents discovered the criminal network through the internet, where they found several advertisements and offers for organised boat trips that promised quick entry into Spain through unauthorized border points along the Almeria coast. The network was divided into three groups: those responsible for logistics, boat management, and migrant transfers; skippers; and high-level organizers. The base port was located in Almería, where they kept the boats and launched trips to pick up migrants on the Algerian coast.
The operation uncovered a new method of smuggling stolen goods and drugs from Spain to Algeria by taking advantage of the boats’ journeys. The stolen items, mainly mobile phones, were stolen in Spain and then sold in Algeria at a lower price.
The trips also posed a serious risk to the migrants’ lives due to the use of inadequate and poorly maintained boats. There have been several shipwrecks, including one in October that resulted in the deaths of two migrants.
The 19 individuals were arrested in different towns in Almería and Tarragona, and seven houses and two farms were searched. 17 boats, two vehicles, over 48,000 euros in cash, 90,000 ecstasy pills, more than 600 grams of high-purity cocaine, and mobile devices belonging to the suspects and third-party robbery victims were seized.
All of the suspects and objects have been presented to the courts, with 16 of them being imprisoned. They are facing charges of crimes against foreign citizens’ rights, public health, and property, belonging to a criminal group, and two reckless homicides. The operation was led by the head of the Investigating Court No. 4 of Almería, the Delegate Prosecutor for Immigration of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Provincial Court of Almería, the Information Group of the Civil Guard of Almería, and the Special Central Unit No. 3 of the Information Headquarters and the Information Group of Tarragona, with the support of the Maritime Service of the Civil Guard.