Spain captures one of world's top drug lords

Other News Materials 24 April 2008 17:39 (UTC +04:00)

Spanish police have captured one of the world's top hashish traffickers, who escaped from a Moroccan prison five months ago, police said Thursday.

Mohammed Tayeb Ahmed was arrested Wednesday as he was driving around in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Morocco's northern coast, reported the dpa.

Morocco had issued an international arrest warrant for the drug lord, known in Spain as El Nene, who was serving an eight-year sentence in the prison of Kenitra 40 kilometres north of the capital Rabat.

Ahmed, who had accumulated a fortune estimated to be worth 30 million euros (46 million dollars), had bribed prison personnel into allowing him to have three cells with air conditioning, television, DVD and a computer with internet access, according to Spanish police.

His escape with the help of prison guards did not become known until a week later. Eight guards have been handed sentences ranging between 2 and 4 years in the affair.

Ceuta, which has a large Muslim population, had stepped up security controls after nine Islamists fled from the same Kenitra prison earlier this month. The nine had been convicted of involvement in the 2003 Casablanca suicide bombings which claimed 45 lives.

Morocco has been regarded as the world's top hashish producer, but it could be losing that position to Afghanistan after a government campaign against cannabis cultivation eradicated a part of the crop.

Moroccan farmers are growing cannabis - the plant from which hashish is made - on an estimated 60,000 hectares. Traffickers like Ahmed then smuggle the drug through Spain to the European market.