Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Fined 7.2 million euros for trying to pass 65 kilos of eels to Morocco

“The Criminal Court number 1 of Algeciras has sentenced a man to pay a fine of 7,200,000 euros to the Junta de Andalucía and one year and three months in prison for trying to pass 65 kilos of glass eels to Morocco through the Port of Tarifa.”
Read the full article in Spanish here
Translated into English below.

Multado con 7,2 millones de euros por intentar pasar 65 kilos de angulas a Marruecos

La intervención de esta cantidad en el Puerto de Tarifa en 2017 provocó la desarticulación de una red de tráfico ilegal de esta especie en Algeciras


Fined 7.2 million euros for trying to pass 65 kilos of eels to Morocco
Eels intervened by the Civil Guard. / EN
  1. MAIQUEZAlgeciras, January 30, 2022 – 1:29 p.m.
The Criminal Court number 1 of Algeciras has sentenced a man to pay a fine of 7,200,000 euros to the Junta de Andalucía and one year and three months in prison for trying to pass 65 kilos of glass eels to Morocco through the Port of rate. The specimens, in the fry state, were hidden in suitcases of clothes, each one of them with different plastic bags with water for their transfer in fresh. The facts are considered to constitute a crime of possession and commercialization of a protected species and were the trigger for the fall of a Chinese network of illegal elver trafficking based in Algeciras in March 2018.
The events took place on December 29, 2017, when the defendant was preparing to take a boat to  Tangier  and at the luggage control the agents detected that in the vehicle, among other packages, he was carrying 65 dry kilos of European eels , although only 2 kilos survived, which were deposited in the Castellar Zoo for recovery.
The search they carried out before the Civil Guard on March 6 in La Piñera.
The search they carried out before the Civil Guard on March 6 in La Piñera. / ERASMO FENOY
The sentence, to which Europa Sur has had access, recalls that  elver is protected in Andalusia and its capture and possession is strictly prohibited throughout the autonomous community. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development valued the damage caused by the extraction of these eels at 7,200,000 euros.
The judge collects in the document that the accused, fully informed of the day and time of the trial, did not attend after having suspended his request up to eight times , so by not appearing he stopped providing his version against the manifesto by the Civil Guard agents who intervened. They indicated that the accused was reluctant to show his luggage , “which dismantles the alleged prohibition error that could have been argued by the defense. The accused knew perfectly well what he was transporting and was aware of its illegality.”
In the proven facts, the sentence indicates that as the experts have explained in various reports, this type of product is not consumed in Morocco , but rather that this country is the gateway to destinations such as China , where it is a highly valued product. . In addition, the judge considers that due to the number of specimens that the accused was transporting, the explanation offered by the defense as a destination for personal or family consumption is not credible either.
The intervention of these 65 kilos of eels were the trigger for an operation that took place in March 2018 in Algeciras and that resulted in  ten people being arrested and the dismantling of a group led by Chinese settled in Spain, some of them in Algeciras, that since at least 2016 it illegally exported eels to Asian markets, with net profits of 37.5 million euros .
The network moved its activity of preparing shipments to Algeciras, where members of the Nature Protection Service ( Seprona ) arrived from Madrid and the Citizen Security Unit of the local Command carried out searches at an address located in La Piñera , in front of the CIE. In these records, containers of water with more than 330 kilos of live eels were located, ready to be sent to Asia, where they are fattened. The agents also found 364 suitcases prepared to transport elvers with a capacity of 5 tons .
During the operation, in addition to the ten detainees – four Chinese, three Spaniards and three Moroccans – searches were carried out in buildings in Gijón, Piedras Blancas and Soto del Barco (Asturias), and in Algeciras, where 364 suitcases were located prepared to be sent to China more than 5,000 kilos of glass eels.
With ramifications in Portugal and Morocco , the disjointed group was already known to the agents of the Central Operational Unit for the Environment (Ucoma) of Seprona since the Black Glass operation of 2016. The investigators bought that since then they have sophisticated their methods. On that occasion they limited themselves to buying the glass eels, preparing the shipments from a house near the Barajas airport (this species does not survive more than 40 hours outside its environment) and sending them to China with  mules .
In this way, in this operation, called Lake, the network bought the eels in Asturias (the detained Spaniards are the ones who sold them) and from there they transferred them to Getafe (Madrid), where they had their base of operations. Successive police coups forced the group to set up a provisional base in Porto and, in fact, several shipments were intercepted at the Portuguese airports in this city, Lisbon and Faro.
After the operations of the Portuguese Police, the network transferred its activity of preparing the shipments to Algeciras and it was the detection of one of them in the port of Tarifa, weighing 65 kilos, which set off the alarms of the agents of the Central Unit Environmental Operation (Ucoma), which intercepted another shipment of 129 kilos that was going to be transferred to Morocco in the hold of a truck.