The most common way to bring illegal drugs in a country is by using the most common means of transport, such as airplanes used for air traffic, trucks used for land transportation, and ships used for maritime traffic.
When we think about how the entry of these illegal drugs can be developed in such a way that they cannot be detected in the transport from one country to another, in some cases it requires the active participation of the passengers and their luggage as essential elements that help the traffic, but in other cases the illegal cargo is hidden in containers or trailers, together with other regular cargo, in order to facilitate its transit. But there is an increasingly common phenomenon that we have been able to deal with at AIYON, which consists of the introduction of drugs hidden in the means of transport itself.
In their case, road haulage companies, especially those operating routs from Africa to Spain via the Strait of Gibraltar, face the increasingly common risk of having drug bales hidden on the outside of their trucks, specifically in the underbody, without the haulage companies or drivers being aware of it.
This operation seems to be carried out relatively easily and quickly, as the ways of placing the drugs range from fastening them to the axles of the truck with clips to placing them with magnets attached to the chassis, so that the illegal packages can be placed during any stop or rest of the driver’s journey. Although the truth is that sometimes it is not even necessary for the driver to be absent from the truck, as even when he is in the cabin, he may even not notice that there is someone under the truck (a phenomenon that also occurs when stowaways are transported).
It would be logical to think that, since it is the outside of the truck, a place in the vehicle to which anyone has access, the driver should not be held responsible until it is proven that he was the one who placed the drugs there or knew about their placement when transporting them, but the reality in the courts is quite different. In fact, there are quite a few proceedings for crimes against the public health against truck drivers in which, after a routine inspection at border control, bundles of drugs are found and the drivers are finally convicted, even if it is not proven that they were the ones who placed the drugs there.
With regard to ships, the same problem can be detected when bales of up to 600 kilos are placed on the outside of a ship, attached to the hull below the waterline. Bales that require a complex operation, as it is divers who, at the port of origin, introduce the package into certain cavities of the ship so that they can face a sea crossing of several days and be picked up at the port of destination by other divers, without the shipowners or the crew having to be aware of it. It is a reality that there are certain ports around the world that require ships docking in them to carry out anti-drug inspection before putting to sea.
Once the problem has been detected by the police, the regular procedure carried out in the case of land transporters (whose involvement in the criminal act is often questioned more than in the case of shipowners) is to arrest the transporters allegedly involved and bring them before the police, and to proceed to the provisional weighing of the drugs by the police.
If after the provisional weighing, the quantity of drugs seized is considered notorious, the prosecutor will assess whether there is a risk of flight, the possibility of destruction of evidence and/or re-offending; having assessed this, he will draw up a report in which he will propose the measures he considers appropriate, including provisional imprisonment if necessary.
After an appearance in court on the tenth day and based on the weighing of the drugs, either Urgent Proceedings are initiated, i.e. without an investigation phase and with the possibility of an agreement with the prosecutor to pass sentence in the Examining Court, or Preliminary Proceedings in the event that they are requested by the prosecutor, issuing an Order for Abbreviated Proceedings in which a time limit is given for the written pleadings and defence. Finally, the Criminal Court, by means of an order, will admit or reject the evidence and set the date for the trial, with a subsequent sentence.
In view of this, surely the best advice we can give to carriers is to exercise extreme caution and, in the event that they are affected, to seek immediate advice from professional lawyers to best defend their interests.