A submarine seized off the Spanish coast over the weekend, the first caught trying to smuggle narcotics into Europe, was carrying three tonnes of cocaine worth 100 million euros ($110 million), officials said Wednesday.
Whereas traffickers, particularly from Colombia, have been caught utilizing submarines to move cocaine into Mexico and america, police mentioned Saturday's seizure was "the first time that this system of transporting drugs has been detected in Europe".
It was escorted into the Spanish port and searched by police who found 152 bales of cocaine.
"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.
Video released by Spanish police showed divers entering the rusty vessel through a top hatch before surfacing it using air bags.
Rough waters had complicated smugglers" alleged efforts to transfer the drugs from the "homemade' boat to another, leading the suspects to sink the submarine before abandoning it. As they did so, they were spotted by patrolling officers, police said.
Two Ecuadorian nationals have been arrested but another person managed to escape. On Sunday a second Ecuadorian was arrested and a third suspect remains on the run.
Cartel expert, Robert J Bunker, said drug cartels began started using submarines to transport drugs in 2005 and added these drug-carrying vessels are usually built-in isolated river inlets in Colombia, Guyana and Ecuador for about a million dollars.
It was later transported to a port in Cangas, in Pontevedra province, where the cocaine-filled packages were removed from the interior, police added.
Police investigations continue to determine the origin of the drugs.
An worldwide operation with police officers from Spain, Portugal, the USA, Great Britain and Brazil followed the fiberglass ship across the Atlantic.