MADRID — Spanish police were studying how to refloat a submarine believed to be carrying tons of cocaine, which if confirmed would make it the first time such a vessel has been found to be used in drug trafficking in the country.
The submarine was intercepted Sunday in an inlet in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, according to an official from the government's office in the province of Pontevedra.
Galician inlets have long been used by smugglers bringing cocaine by sea from South America into Europe.
The official, who on Monday spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government rules, said a police diver had managed to enter the submarine and extracted one package of cocaine.
Media reports said the vessel — believed to be some 65 feet long — could be carrying three metric tons of the drug but the official said this could not be confirmed yet.
Two Ecuadorian crew members were arrested on land Sunday after police moved to seize the submarine while a third managed to flee, according to the official.
He said it was not clear if the vessel had been purposely sunk by the crew or had suffered some mechanical problem.
The official said the submarine was approximately 20 feet under water and that bad weather was complicating how police might be able to bring it to the surface.
The Spanish police, in coordination with other countries' forces, had been monitoring the submarine's journey for some days, according to the official.
Portuguese police confirmed the submarine passed by Portugal and that detectives and the Portuguese Navy were involved in a joint operation with Spanish authorities to track it.
However, a police spokesperson said Portuguese authorities were not immediately making public any details of the operation. The spokesperson spoke on condition of anonymity, in accordance with police rules.
The Spanish official could not say from which country the submarine had come but media reports said it was suspected to have set off from Colombia.
Besides Galicia's inlets, gangs often use Spain's southwestern port of Algeciras to smuggle cocaine into Spain.
In April 2018, police found nearly 9 tons of cocaine concealed in a banana shipment from Colombia in the port. Two months earlier, authorities seized six tons of cocaine there.