The lucrative drug business in a pandemic prison | Spain

Archive image of the entrance to the Madrid IV Penitentiary Center, in the town of Navalcarnero.
Archive image of the entrance to the Madrid IV Penitentiary Center, in the town of Navalcarnero.Santi Burgos

The isolation to which the Ministry of the Interior subjected Spanish prisons during the state of alarm to minimize the risk of contagion from the covid did not prevent drug traffickers who act behind its walls from continuing with their business. And even watch it grow. The dismantling of a plot in the Navalcarnero penitentiary (Madrid) last September, with the arrest of 18 people -five of them, prison officials-, has revealed the tactics with which its members managed to circumvent the difficulty that the pandemic supposed for the introduction of drugs. And how the double confinement that this entailed for the inmates led to a greater dependence on drugs and a profitable business for the mafia. The summary, to which EL PAÍS has had access, details that, during the pandemic, three prisoners in this prison died from overdoses.

The one baptized as Operation Orión – which took place in parallel to another in Valdemoro prison for which four officials and two inmates were arrested in June for similar acts – began after the director of the Navalcarnero Penitentiary Center sent two letters in June of 2019 to Interior. In them, he requested police help to cut off the entry of drugs and mobile phones (whose possession and use in prison is prohibited) that had put the security of the center at risk. In that document, the head of the prison already indicated two workers as allegedly involved in the plot, according to the summary.

On September 29, more than two years after that complaint, the Civil Guard detained five prison workers, one of them retired, along with 13 other people, including seven inmates, as alleged members of the plot. The active officials, who deny the accusations, have since been suspended from their duties by Penitentiary Institutions.

According to the report that the armed institute sent to the judge shortly before the arrests, “the investigated officials would take advantage of their condition to introduce, without the slightest problem because they do not have any type of control at the entrance to the penitentiary, among their certain belongings narcotic substances and mobile phones ”that were later handed over to inmates with whom they were supposedly in league.

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The testimonies collected by the agents indicate that they did so in backpacks in which they carried up to a kilo of hashish, 20 grams of cocaine and 20 grams of heroin, as well as telephones with an internet connection. For each one of these backpacks that sneaked in, they received 1,500 euros, according to some of the 11 protected witnesses, six of them inmates, with whom they have in the case declared. Sources of the workers’ defenses reduce the credibility of these testimonies and add that, when some of these witnesses were called by the Navalcarnero judge who is instructing the case to ratify their testimony, they did not appear and they cannot be located.

Higher prices

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The Civil Guard report highlights the benefits that the plot obtained from the sale of the drug, since the price of the same in jail is much higher than in the street. As an example, the agents point out that while the kilo of hashish out of prison is around 1,000 euros, behind the walls, that same amount reached 8,000. The same goes for heroin and cocaine, which is sold by the micron in prison for between 20 and 50 euros, and per gram for up to 200 euros, well above the 60 euros per gram on the street.

The police document adds that, while in other prisons during the pandemic the volume of drugs decreased because isolation eliminated the two main routes of entry (physical encounters or force from vis of prisoners with family and friends and exit permits, suspended to avoid contagion), in Navalcarnero it increased.

Thus, in 2019 in this prison two and a half kilos of hashish and 50 grams of cocaine were seized, while in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, these figures rose to two kilos and 700 grams and 101 grams, respectively. Heroin decreased a little: from 138 grams to 125. The police document emphasizes that the estimate is that the quantities involved only represent 10% of all the drugs that circulate in prisons. Protected witness number 2 assured the agents that during the pandemic he saw “a continuous transfer of narcotic substances.”

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The investigations indicate that, once inside, the drug was quickly distributed by a network of several inmates who sold it “practically on the same day of arrival.” As the presumed leader, HCA, aliases Ñapas, who in just two months in the Navalcarnero prison, after going through those of Valdemoro and León, had been baptized by the other inmates as El Capo. As detailed by protected witness 8, it was this inmate who contacted someone from the plot abroad so that, later, he would do so with the official who would be in charge of introducing drugs and cell phones.

“Once the official has introduced it,” this witness continued, “he hands it over to Ñapas, and between him and another inmate named Luis, he distributes it in turn among the interested inmates, who, later, make a transfer to a account number that Ñapas has given to all inmates interested in obtaining said narcotic substances and, in addition, a phone number to send a screenshot of the shipment [del dinero]”. With it, their families had to certify that they had made the payment.

In the records of the six cells of the prisoners allegedly involved, the agents did not find drugs, but they did find handwritten notes with the numbers of these accounts in which the money was deposited. These deposits were in the name of relatives of the alleged leaders of the plot. In one of them, from the sister of the alleged head of the network, between 2019 and 2021 about 107,500 euros were entered in dozens of unjustified transfers, many of them for only 50 euros. In the concept, the families of the prisoners had to reflect the alias of the person who had delivered the drug (Peli, Lito, Niño Flo, Ñapas …) so that the plot could keep a record.

In the cells of two of those involved, the Civil Guard found handwritten annotations in which part of these movements were collected, as well as four small papers with the account numbers that the plot gave to the prisoners so that they would know where to do it. the pay.

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Along with these documents, the Civil Guard intervened two mobile phones. In one of them, the agents recovered the crossing of messages that the alleged member of the network maintained in May, four months before his arrest, with people from outside the prison before whom he bragged about his access to prohibited products: “I have bought a smartphone [teléfono móvil inteligente] a civil servant ”,“ the civil servants here for money they put you whatever it is ”,“ 800 turkeys [eruros] and I have a phone [con] Internet ”or“ I am going to try to record an official while I buy him a lot of drugs and some cell phones ”, are some of the messages to which the Civil Guard gives relevance.

Between January 2019 and September 2021, 142 mobile phones were tapped on inmates at the Navalcarnero prison. Of them, 72 had access to the internet, according to a report from Penitentiary Institutions incorporated into the summary. The witnesses of Operation Orión assure that for each one an average of 550 euros was paid. It was the other big deal of the plot.

The mother of an inmate, forced to pay with pension

Operation Orion has revealed the coercion that the plot exerted on the prisoners and their families so that they did not delay in payment. A report from the Civil Guard highlights the testimony of the mother of an inmate who transferred about 6,000 euros to the network accounts under the false concept of dental treatment for her son. The woman assured that she did so after being threatened by members of the plot with “doing some harm” to her relative in prison and, even, with going to her home to attack her if she did not pay. His son, also a witness, confirmed his words. In her statement, this mother assured that she had run out of money and had “almost nothing to eat”, since her only income was a pension of 400 euros. The victim gave the agents some supporting documents for the payments he had made to the plot and which now serve as evidence against its members.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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