Spanish police have arrested 12 people after raiding a cocaine laboratory near Madrid that operated like the clandestine outdoor labs found in the jungles of South America and which had the capacity to produce 120kg of the drug each week.
The lab, the first of its kind discovered in Spain, was stormed by officers from the Policía Nacional’s special operation group, who found five “cooks” at work when they burst in.
The operation, which included searches of 10 properties in Madrid, Málaga and Córdoba, led to the seizure of 85kg of cocaine base paste, 250kg of cocaine-impregnated cement, six vehicles, a pistol and €36,000 (£32,000).
In a statement, police said the raids, carried out at the beginning of September, revealed a surprising set-up.
“This operation used a way of recovering the cocaine that laboratory-dismantling experts had never seen in this country, and which resembles what you see in the South American jungle,” it said.
“These laboratories normally tend to be set up inside houses or on industrial units to escape the attention of neighbours and the police. But this laboratory was in the grounds of huge farm and was only protected by shades and tarpaulins that had been put up to try to hide its activities from aerial view.”
According to the statement, the Spanish citizen alleged to be the leader of the gang oversaw a business importing sacks of cement whose contents were laced with the cocaine that was then extracted at the farm near Madrid using a carefully hoarded supply of chemicals.
The alleged leader tasked a Dominican citizen with running the lab and organising the distribution of the cocaine. He, in turn, recruited three Colombians who came to Spain to recover the cocaine from the cement.
“These people, known as ‘cooks’, are usually hired for a specific operation and charge according to the number of kilos extracted before returning to their home country,” the statement added.
Police said the operation also reflected the deep knowledge of the “cooks”. Rather than using large quantities of chemicals that are subject to international stringent international checks, they employed only petrol, ammonia and water to recover the cocaine. A drone was also used to guard the lab.