'The Messi of drugs' escapes police as raids uncover 13 tonnes of marijuana

A cache of weapons was also recovered in the raids (stock photo)

A cache of weapons was also recovered in the raids (stock photo)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Spanish police have uncovered 13 tonnes of marijuana after busting a huge network led by a man nicknamed 'Messi.'

The network, which was dismantled by officers from the national police and Guardia Civil, is thought to be the biggest marijuana trafficking network in Spain.

Officers also uncovered three assault rifles, three Glock pistols, 20,000 euros and eight all-terrain vehicles.

A total of 19 people were arrested in the raids - 12 Moroccans, six Spaniards and a Ukrainian. All 19 of the group have been detained in prison.

However the ringleader, a Moroccan whose real name is Abdellah El Haj, managed to evade arrest, having fled Spain for his native country two months ago.

El Haj, who got the 'Messi' nickname by publishing a series of photos on social media in homage to the Barcelona star, fled on March 17, after managing to evade officers who had come to arrest him at a shisha bar in the port city of Algericas.

He had initially returned to Morocco in January, but decided to venture back to Spain to see an Algerian singer, who was performing at the shisha bar.

It is thought that El Haj ran the group through a series of independent cells, each of them made up of smugglers charged with getting the marijuana onto Spanish beaches. Once they arrived in Spain the drugs were transported to warehouses, for distribution across Europe.

Officers have launched a series of raids on El Haj's group over the last 18 months, but it is presently unclear how many members of the gang remain active - or whether officers will again try to arrest the ringleader.

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