MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan authorities arrested 17 people in several cities and seized cars, boats and large amounts of money allegedly belonging to a group of Uruguayans that sailed boats loaded with cocaine between the Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula, officials said Wednesday.
“Once the trip was completed, these individuals would return to the point of departure on the same sailboat” carrying cash to deliver to the drug traffickers “as payment for the shipment,” the Uruguayan drug enforcement agency said in a statement.
“Operation Anambe” targeted a Caribbean-based organization involved in international smuggling of cocaine and, according to the statement, a man identified as Aurelio Araujo, who has a criminal record in Spain, was responsible for recruiting people with sailing experience.
On Tuesday, the statement said, a judge ordered the arrest of suspects and searches of several locations in the cities of Montevideo, Maldonado, Piriapolis, Punta del Este and Ciudad del Plata.
In addition to the arrests of the 17 suspects, authorities seized 17 motor vehicles, two boats, cash and gold.
A judge ordered the prosecution of Araujo and Carmen Mariela Morales, who will remain under custody until trial, charged with organizing and financing drug trafficking and money laundering operations.
Twelve other people face different charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering.
Three people were released and the judge ordered further investigation of the group’s operation to determine if there are additional assets connected with their operation.
The judge issued arrest warrants for other four people still at large.