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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sam Jones in Madrid

Spanish police arrest 10 after discovery of ‘highly sophisticated’ meth lab

Guardia Civil officer kneeling in front of lab equipment
The Guardia Civil operation was named Heisenberg VI-Cabarna in an apparent reference to the alias of the protagonist in Breaking Bad. Photograph: Guardia Civil

Spanish police have arrested 10 people and seized 70kg of methamphetamine after discovering a “highly sophisticated” synthetic drug laboratory capable of producing up to 10kg of meth a day.

The Guardia Civil operation – named Heisenberg VI-Cabarna in an apparent reference to the alias adopted by the meth-making protagonist of the TV series Breaking Bad – began in February last year after officers noticed that an individual in the Basque province of Bizkaia was receiving drugs from a criminal gang based in Catalonia.

Their investigation was complicated by the fact that the mobile lab producing the drugs could be transported over long distances across northern Spain, moving from the Basque Country to Castilla y León and then to Catalonia, where it was finally seized.

When the Guardia Civil traced the lab to a property in the city of Granollers, 30km (20 miles) north of Barcelona, they found an elaborate and potentially lethal facility, complete with charcoal filters to get rid of any smells that could attract attention.

The force said in a statement: “The laboratory was fully functional and was equipped with test tubes, flasks, heaters, low temperature coolers, evaporators, constant speed stirrers, low temperature circulators and refrigerators.

“A lot of the substances seized were highly toxic and very flammable – such as methanol – and have explosive properties that can be altered by thermal or mechanical changes or variations in pressure or moisture, which is why the lab had to be dismantled by specialised personnel with specialised kit. That wasn’t the only risk: waste products from these labs damage the environment and, in this case, it was disposed of directly into the sewage system.”

Officers seized 70kg of crystal and powder methamphetamine, 790 litres of methamphetamine in different stages of crystallisation and 60 litres of piperonyl methyl ketone and phenylacetone – two key ingredients in meth manufacture. They also found 112kg of powder-cutting substances and other materials, and 1,700 litres of other liquid ingredients.

Once produced, the drugs were distributed both within Spain – in Alicante, Bizkaia, Valencia and Andalucía – and throughout other EU countries. Four people were arrested in Bizkaia, four in Barcelona and two in León.

“In terms of the quantity of drugs produced, the amount of finished product seized and the quality of the lab set-up and the knowledge of the person who operated it, this is one of the most complex, sophisticated and productive operations we’ve come across,” the Guardia Civil statement said.

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