A Fidel, whose real name is Gilberto, they also call him “the boss.” This is how it appears in the transcripts of police wiretaps for more than five years. However, it was not until a year ago, when the so-called Operation Ferro was launched, that National Police agents experts in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime began to connect the dots of his long life as a drug trafficker.
The policemen were investigating, directed by the Court of Instruction number 3 of Tarragona, an alleged international drug trafficking network with ramifications in different parts of Spain. But nothing made them suspect that they would end up running into the first semi-submersible narco-boat manufactured in Spain.
The boat, a semi-rigid cabinada zodiac, was inside a hangar in Monda, a Malaga municipality of 2,500 inhabitants in the Sierra de Las Nieves. At first glance, with its azure blue color and the appearance of a fairy-tale boat, it looked like a carnival float or a fairground attraction. But, once analyzed by the agents, they found that it was an ingenious nautical creation whose main objective was “not to raise suspicions” at sea, while transporting thousands of kilos of cocaine.
Its designer and manufacturer is precisely Fidel, Gilberto Morales, “the boss,” a 55-year-old Cuban who worked for José Ramón Prado Bugallo for a long time, Miñanco website, in Galicia and who – like many other drug traffickers – moved south in 2010, when the drug trafficking business ended on the Galician coast with the fall of the big bosses.
The “boss” was arrested last February at his mansion in Marbella, a huge and luxurious villa located in one of the best areas of the city of Malaga. He lived there “for a few years now,” according to investigation sources, with his wife. “His son was not there at the time of his arrest,” the same sources say. It was not the first time that the police had put handcuffs on him. The “boss” had already been in prison in Spain and has a criminal record for drug trafficking. On the table in his spacious living room, a single book with red covers in which “Fidel” could be read on a black silhouette.
At the same time, a few dozen meters from that house, in a semi-detached house, Marcos, 51, also a Cuban and a friend of Fidel, was arrested. Under his orders, the two of them had completed that semi-submersible narco-boat that was about to be launched to begin work in the waters of the Strait, according to sources in the investigation.
Two newspaper clippings found in one of the rooms of Marcos’ villa, who lived with his wife and two children, recalled the long journey as drug traffickers that united these two Cubans: lack of work. Among the 18 detainees is the leader, a Cuban resident in Santiago, ”he titled The Vigo Lighthouse on May 29, 2010; and “La Udyco [Unidad de Drogas y Crimen Organizado] implicates Sito Miñanco in an international drug trafficking operation led by an organization from Ribeira ”, read the clipping of the article from The voice of Galicia of August 3, 2017.
The Cuban “resident in Santiago” was Fidel, who was also the one who allegedly rented in that same city, years later, the Seat Toledo in which Sito Miñanco was intercepted, on May 4, 2017 at four in the morning in a routine control of the Civil Guard in Queiruga (Porto do Son).
The police suspect that Fidel and Sito were collaborators for years in Galicia and that the nautical knowledge of the former would be applied to the large businesses of the latter. In fact, one of the times that the Cuban was arrested in Galicia, precisely a cabin boat that had previously belonged to Sito Miñanco was seized, according to investigators.
Nobody knows exactly how or where Fidel acquired his ability to adapt boats to transport tons of drugs. Perhaps he was able to work in a shipyard or in a naval company, although the investigators are more inclined to “have learned from the Colombians”, who build all kinds of narco-ships in clandestine shipyards in the jungle, such as the narco-submarine intercepted off the coast of Pontevedra in November of 2019.
Now, the Navy is preparing a study about his latest work: La primera narcolancha semisumergible ‘made in Spain’. It never got into the water, but the researchers say that “everything indicates that it is suitable for navigation.”
It is a boat with “nine meters in length, three in command and three in draft.” On the keel of a semi-rigid boat they raised a shell, “a structure of frames and reinforcements with plywood panels and fiberglass imported from Holland to provide the whole with the necessary structural resistance”. The result, beyond its naive appearance, is “a boat cabinada, for two crew members, whose interior is accessed through a deck hatch ”, the researchers explain.
At the stern, a small cabin for two people with a control console and a steering wheel-shaped rudder. Next to it, a mat so that a second crew member can rest, while the other governs the ship. That is the only space in which a person can stand. The rest, up to the bow, is an open space, prepared to store drug bales, up to 2,000 kilos, according to the researchers.
The device has two engines, Volvo brand, 200 horsepower, “that is, it was not looking for speed, but to go unnoticed,” say the same sources. “The idea is that it was at water level, that’s why it has that color, to better camouflage itself, but it even had a structure of poles to be able to become a kind of sailboat, if necessary,” they point out.
Fidel’s nautical ingenuity “must have taken him months of work and has an approximate cost of one million euros,” as calculated by the researchers. They had it very hidden, in the back of an industrial warehouse in the Malaga municipality of Monda, a very discreet town with little police surveillance, they point out.
“The ship, from the outside, looked like a wholesale warehouse for commissary products: there were from cleaning products to fresh vegetables,” recall the investigators, who did not expect to run into the narco-vessel when they searched the place. “We had that place under control”, they recall, “the day before, they took out a shipment of 550 kilos of hashish in trucks, and when we entered the ship for the early morning search, behind a scaffolding in the back, we found the narco-ship : even we thought it was a float ”, they acknowledge.
Fidel’s gang consisted of five people, one of whom acted as a link with other organizations, Colombian, Portuguese and Dutch, with which they collaborated in drug trafficking. Along with him and his partner Marcos, another 49 people were arrested in the three phases of this police macrooperation.
The last naval ingenuity of “the boss”, still unused, now awaits destination in a judicial warehouse in San Roque (Cádiz).
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.