Spanish police break up international cocaine ring

MADRID (AFP) - Spanish police said on Thursday they had smashed an international cocaine ring in a two-year operation with other forces that led to the arrests of 74 people in Spain, Brazil and Colombia.

Police seized 575 kg of the drug and closed five secret laboratories in a global swoop together with US, Brazilian and French police.

They also seized 11 firearms including an assault rifle along with 588,000 euros (S$968,083) and US$7 million (S$8.96 million) in cash, the Spanish police said in a statement.

The alleged head of the ring, which moved drugs and cash between South America and Europe, was a "known Colombian drug dealer" living in Brazil, who was arrested in Rio de Janeiro, the police said.

The cocaine was sent to Spain and transferred to five laboratories in Malaga, Madrid and Cordoba to be cut and then sold in Spain, France and Italy, police said.

It was transported in false bottoms in the bodies of cars. Two of the cars were seized in Marseille, southern France, one of which was carrying 30kg of cocaine.

Police detained 70 men and four women, including Spaniards, Colombians, Portuguese, Iranians and Bolivians.