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Spain, U.S. strengthen security ties

Sept. 20, 2012 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

MADRID, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Spain's top police official announced this week Madrid and the United States are working more closely to battle drug trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism.

Ignacio Cosido, director general of the Spanish National Police Force, said Monday his recent trip to the United States yielded tighter links between Spain and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Customs and Borders Protection agency, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

A statement released by the Spanish government indicated one of main topics on the security agenda during the Washington meeting was the fight against cocaine trafficking from Latin America.

It said Cosido proposed stepping up international cooperation "on the investigations carried out into the money laundering activities of these criminal organizations."

The suggestion was met with approval from high-level members of the DEA, who repeated their wish to collaborate with the Spanish National Police Force on "any operations that require the involvement of their agency."

Cosido said Spanish police would take part in an upcoming DEA training course on money laundering and drug trafficking as Madrid battles a flourishing drug industry at a time when youth unemployment has reached 36 percent.

Especially vulnerable is Cadiz province, where hashish trafficking from northern Africa is on the rise, data released by the narcotics division of the Spanish public prosecutor's office indicated in July. The figures showed 115 tons of the 282 tons of hashish seized throughout Spain last were taken in Cadiz, ANSAMed reported.

But Spain's drug connections with Latin American are also strong.

Last month, Spanish National Police in cooperation with the FBI broke up what officials called the "first serious attempt" by Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel to establish a foothold in Europe, the Spanish news agency EFE reported.

Nabbed in the Madrid bust were four suspected Sinaloa figures, including Jesus Gutierrez Guzman, a cousin of cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman. The arrests came a week after 822 pounds of 80-percent pure cocaine was intercepted in the Spanish port of Algeciras, officials said.

Spain and the DEA had been cooperating on the case as part of the "Operation Dark Waters" action against the Sinaloa cartel.

On cybercrime, Cosido told U.S. authorities the Spanish police's ability to track down criminals has been enhanced by its new Technological Investigation Unit and through tips generated via social media.

Spain has been the base of several master cybercriminals, including the creators of the "Mariposa Botnet," who were able to infect an estimated 8 million-12 million computers around the world with viruses used to steal credit card and bank account information as well as to launch denial-of-service attacks.

A 2010 bust by the Spanish Guardia Civil working with the FBI and Slovenian authorities resulted in the arrests of three arrested three suspected Mariposa Botnet operators in Madrid.

Spain's biggest terrorist concern remains the Basque separatist group ETA, and Cosido told U.S. officials their cooperation is essential since 21 of the suspected ETA members arrested so far this year have been collared in countries other than Spain.

But the U.S.-Spanish cooperation is also being strengthened in the struggle against "Jihadist terrorism, especially against the emerging threat from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb."

This summer Spain recalled its relief aid workers in western Algeria shortly after two workers were kidnapped and later released by Islamic extremists operating in Mali.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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