Spanish police have arrested six people and seized 16,000 marijuana plants after an investigation into a spate of robberies led officers to two huge and sophisticated drug plantations hidden in remote pine forests.
The operation began seven months ago when the national police force learned that an Albanian gang had been stealing cigarette vending machines from bars and petrol stations in the north-eastern region of Aragón.
Officers discovered that the same gang was also growing marijuana on a massive scale and had set up camps to keep a constant eye on the crops.
The plantations, deep in the pine forests near Agüero and Murillo de Gállego in Aragón, could be reached only after a 30-minute drive in a 4x4 vehicle and a further 30 minutes on foot along difficult paths.
“The gang had cut down large areas of pine trees to maximise the amount of space for growing marijuana,” police said in a statement.
“They had also adapted gullies to store water, which was then fed to the plantations using pumps, hoses and electrical generators.”
Officers found the sites were guarded day and night.
“To do so, the gang had established camps that had everything needed for lengthy stays, including a large supply of non-perishable goods and even a stone oven,” added the statement.
“Their permanent vigils, together with a perfect knowledge of the forests in which they lived, made the investigation on the ground enormously difficult.”
The plantations were raided in September. The force said the difficult terrain had meant that 70 officers had been needed to carry the plants to the nearest point reachable by 4x4s.
“The operation has seen the complete dismantling of the six-person gang and the seizure of 16,000 plants weighing a total of 3.5 tonnes,” said the statement. “It is the biggest seizure to date of marijuana in Aragón.”