Costa del sol, costa del crime, gang war
Jean-Claude Perez/GNU
Costa del Sol

Drug Violence Spills onto Streets of Spanish Resort Towns

October 29, 2008 01:52 PM
by Christopher Coats
A series of shootings along Spain’s famed Costa del Sol exposes the region’s lucrative drug trade.

Organized Crime Converges in Costa del Sol

Long viewed as a central distribution point for drugs imported from South America, Asia and the Netherlands, Spain’s Costa del Sol has become a focal point of organized crime figures from across Europe, many making the stretch of Mediterranean seafront their primary residence. Shootings in public venues, in crowds or even in broad daylight have produced a pattern of violence connected by the region’s drug trade.

“Many believe the Spanish police already have enough criminals of their own without going after foreign gangs,” wrote Conor Lally in the Irish Times earlier this year.

Local police have suggested that the attacks stem from an attempt on the part of British gangs to make headway into a drug trade controlled by French-Algerian and Russian gangs, both of which command a sizable presence on the Coast.

Although the area is no stranger to drug-related violence, this year’s spike in public attacks and the role of hired hit men has drawn increased scrutiny to the way Spanish authorities have dealt with the problem.

Most recently, a British citizen allegedly linked to a Liverpool drug ring was shot five times in broad daylight in the vacation town of Puerto Banus as he left a local restaurant. Despite his injuries, the man survived the attack.

Just a few weeks before, Peter Mitchell, a former member of an Irish drug gang, was shot twice in an apparent murder attempt in front of a bar not far from the Puerto Banus shooting. Two other men were injured in the shooting.

Earlier this year, Dublin-based gang enforcer Paddy Doyle was gunned down after an argument with the son of a Russian mafia boss.

It is unclear whether these recent attacks, all involving individuals connected to organized crime in the United Kingdom, are a result of past events or current struggles for power within the European drug market.

Reactions: Spanish authorities angered but hindered

Responding to the recent public violence, Antonio Martin, general secretary of the local left-wing PSOE party, told the Irish Times that the Costa del Sol cannot become a refuge for organized crime.

“We must make every effort to ensure these sorts of incidents don't happen again. The violence and impunity with which these people are acting in public places is alarming."

However, local authorities face an uphill battle when it comes to cracking down on organized crime, thanks to not only the widespread presence of crime in the region but also corruption within the local Spanish police force.

Earlier this year, four inspectors from the province’s organized crime department were charged with bribery, embezzlement, dereliction of duty, ownership of illegal arms and revealing confidential information.

The four officers joined a long list of public officials from the Costa del Sol arrested for corruption in the last decade. In March 2006, the coastal town of Marbella saw most of its city hall arrested on corruption charges involving money laundering and building license abuses.

Background: Costa del Sol housing crisis

The drug-related attacks are just the latest in a long line of obstacles facing the popular vacation spot. An overabundance of homes and a rapidly deteriorating demand after decades of growth and construction in Costa del Sol has sent real estate agencies into crisis mode.

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