Drug Smuggler Shot a Crewmate and Took Eight Others Hostage

File image courtesy CBP

Published Feb 14, 2024 10:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

Spanish law enforcement agencies have revealed the details of a drug bust operation in the high seas last November that took a dramatic turn. A simple interdiction became a rescue mission after one of the suspects hijacked the boat and took his fellow smugglers hostage.

The boat was an aging tug, the Sea Paradise, and was carrying 2,300 kilograms of cocaine worth about $70 million. Spanish authorities got a tipoff regarding the shipment, which was supposed to be transferred to a smaller vessel close to the Canary Islands, a popular area for cocaine transshipment at sea.

However, a few hours before the authorities planned to board Sea Paradise, the agents learned that a Serbian crewmember had shot one of the men, dumped the body into the sea and taken the rest of the smugglers hostage. Faced with the need to save the lives of the eight remaining crew members, the authorities mobilized a specialized rescue team whose priority was safeguarding the lives of the hostages. 

The team was dispatched to the scene aboard Spanish Tax Agency offshore patrol vessel Condor. In less than 12 hours, the intervention team arrived on scene and boarded the Sea Paradise. The officers established an initial contact with the crewmembers and with the kidnapper.

After several hours of negotiations, the hijacker put down his weapon and surrendered. The boarding team rescued the rest of the smuggling suspects and brought the tug to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Alongside the pier, they searched the boat and seized the narcotics, which were hidden in a cabin that was very difficult to access. The drugs were divided into bales attached to strobe lights and water jugs, so that they could float in the water until they could be located by another smuggling boat. Electronics and communications equipment was also seized. 

The details of the case were kept secret for four months and have only now been released to the public.