MADRID – Spanish police arrested on Monday one of the country’s most notorious drug lords in a large-scale crackdown that led to shootouts with members of the trafficking ring, leaving four police officers injured, officials told EFE.
The trafficker, Jose Ramon Prado Bugallo – better known by his alias, “Sito Miñanco” –, was arrested in the southern port city of Algeciras, while his daughter was apprehended in his hometown of Cambados, a fishing village in the northwestern Galicia region.
Sources involved in the operation told EFE that one of the injured police officers, a member of the elite special operations tactical unit, had sustained a gunshot wound to the collarbone during a raid on a shooting range in Alpedrete, a mountain town in the Madrid area, although his life was not in danger.
One of the ring’s members was also grazed in the shootout, while another police officer was bruised after receiving several bullet impacts on his kevlar vest.
Five people linked to Prado’s drug clan were arrested in the Alpedrete raid, the sources added.
All in all, “Operation Myth,” overseen by Judge Carmen Lamela of Spain’s national court, resulted in some 40 arrests and 47 home searches.
The narcotics kingpin had been arrested several times since the 1980s, when he started out his criminal career by smuggling tobacco into Spain.
He was now set to stand trial for alleged money laundering and drug trafficking at the national court, with the prosecution asking for a 16-year prison sentence.
Born in 1955, Prado rose to prominence in the Spanish underworld when he arranged a deal with members of Colombia’s Medellin cartel – then controlled by Pablo Escobar – to smuggle cocaine into Europe through Galicia.
He was arrested in 1994 for introducing 2.5 tons of cocaine from Panama into Spain and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon said during the trial that Prado ruled over a considerable financial empire that included legitimate business interests such as real estate companies and investment funds.
Prado, in turn, sued the judge for what he claimed had been illicit telephone surveillance, alleging it violated his privacy rights.
In 2003, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Prado’s favor and ordered the Spanish state to award him 7,000 euros ($8,711) in compensation.
After serving seven years of his term, he was released on parole but was soon arrested again at his villa in Madrid’s outskirts while he was remotely supervising the transfer of five tons of cocaine in international waters, near French Guiana.
On that occasion, Prado was sentenced to 16 years and 10 months in jail and forced to pay a 390-million-euro fine.
He was again released in April 2015, although it did not take long for him to resume the criminal activities that prompted Monday’s arrest.