Police in Spain have seized a submarine carrying cocaine off the coast of the northwest Galicia region which had arrived from South America, officials said on Monday.
Two Ecuadorian men were arrested as part of the operation on Sunday in the seaside town of Cangas near the border with Portugal, a spokesman for the central government's representative in Galicia said.
A diver managed to enter the submarine on Monday and removed a bundle of cocaine from inside, a spokesman revealed.
Police were on Monday trying to refloat the vessel and they will not be able to determine the total amount of drugs on board until they have done so, he added.
But a source close to the investigation said the submarine was likely transporting ”several tons (of cocaine) but this is just an estimate”.
Spanish media said the vessel was carrying more than three tons of cocaine from Colombia.
Drug traffickers, especially from Colombia, have been caught using submarines to transport cocaine into Mexico, and from there into the United States.
The gangs often pay unemployed engineers desperate for money to design and make the submarines, said Wilder Alejandro Sanchez, a defense and geopolitics analyst at a US-based think-tank, the Centre for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).
Most are only semi-submersible - a ship partially submerged that cannot fully dive like a submarine - but some are able to go 30m underwater, he added.
In September the US Coast Guard, with the aid of the Colombian navy, intercepted a submarine carrying over five tons of cocaine off the coast of South America.
Galicia, one of Spain's poorest regions, is a top entry point for cocaine into Europe. A maze of coves, caves and inlets dot its rugged coastline, making it a smuggler's paradise.
Spain accounted for the second-highest proportion of cocaine seizures in the European Union last year after Belgium, with 41 tons apprehended.