It has long been rumored that three sophisticated narco syndicates have been utilizing submersible technology to cross the Atlantic Ocean and deliver drugs from South America to Europe. While it is widely known that these groups have been using submarines to transport drugs to the United States, never before have they been caught making the transatlantic journey. Now, one has been finally nabbed, its cargo seized, and its crew arrested by Spanish authorities. That makes this story one for the ages.

In the culmination of a multi-year investigation conducted in coordination between American, Spanish and Europol law enforcement officers, thousands of pounds of narcotics, the all of which came from South America, have been seized by authorities. The operation was dubbed “Marea Negra” or “Black Tide”.

Since the discovery on 24 November, much attention has been paid to tracing the origin of the craft. It can now be announced that the submarine was manufactured in Guyana at the behest of a Colombian cartel, and from there it was loaded up and began its journey across the Atlantic. The Medellín cartel is the most likely culprit behind this affair and has enjoyed a decades-long presence in Spain.

This is historic news: a 65-foot submarine, carrying 6,600 lbs of narcotics and three Ecuadorian drug smugglers, was captured by Spanish authorities off the coast of Galicia. This is the first time that a submersible system has been found by authorities in Europe.

Authorities estimate that cartels have produced roughly 1,000 of these submarines and that only three groups have the resources to fund them.

Since the capture of the cartel vessel, six individuals have been arrested by the Spanish police. The Ecuadorian crew members that made the perilous journey were the first to be caught and just the other day three operatives coordinating distribution on the ground in Spain were also detained.

HUGE PROFITS: a kilo of cocaine in Spain has a street value of $45,000

Our American Drug Enforcement Agency has been working alongside the Spanish Brigada Central de Estupefacientes (Central Narcotic Brigade) ever since the cartel presence was first detected in Europe some 35 years ago.

The Medellín cartel is content with watching shipments like these being caught due to the high markup on cocaine trafficked abroad. A single kilo can sell for roughly $45,000 in Europe, whereas it would retail for only half that in the United States. Production costs are even lower: traffickers pay just $900 per kilo for the unrefined coca paste.

With the recent Colombian peace process finalized earlier this year, farmers have expanded their cultivation of coca leaf by hundreds of thousands of acres. With the increased supply now saturating the markets on the American hemisphere, cartels will continue to seek out demand.

Not the first submarine, just the first one caught

This likely isn’t the first time that narcotics have made their way to Europe in this manner. Spanish publication El Pais had this to say:

 Losada said the narco-submarine had the “fuel capacity to cross an ocean with this type of cargo,” and warned: “Drug traffickers are continuing to introduce drugs into Europe using any type of vessel, like this submersible.” The vessel has been transported to the port of Aldán, which is home to 26,000 people. The narco-submarine was refloated with the help of two small fishing ships. The efforts to raise the sub had faced several setbacks including bad weather and the fact that two of the ropes that divers had attached to the vessel broke while it was being towed to port.

Legend becomes reality. Since 2006, officers had been hearing about drug-laden semi-submersibles making the trip to Spain and Africa. But no one had ever caught one. This is the first narco-submarine to be captured in Europe. “No one had seen anything like it before, not even the Colombians,” said sources close to the investigation. The investigation was opened following a tip-off from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was then pursued by the National Police, Civil Guard and SVA. It’s now known that the sub was made in a secret shipyard in the jungles of Suriname or Guyana, specifically to carry the cocaine shipment from Colombia to Galicia.

Earlier this week, it was announced that 1,400 lbs of crystal meth were also recovered from a warehouse in Barcelona—the largest seizure of methamphetamine ever made by Spanish authorities.