Span­ish cus­toms vi­o­late Bri­tish sovereignty dur­ing Gi­bral­tar pur­suit

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A Span­ish cus­toms ves­sel and he­li­copter chased sus­pected drug smug­glers onto a beach in Gi­bral­tar, a Bri­tish over­seas ter­ri­tory, early Sun­day, in what the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment said was “clear vi­o­la­tion of UK sovereignty.”

The chase started 18 kilo­me­ters (11 miles) into the Strait of Gi­bral­tar but ended at around 3 a.m. ( 0100 GMT) on the shore­line in Sandy Bay, a beach on Gi­bral­tar’s east side over­looked by residential homes.

The smug­glers jet­ti­soned bales of drugs be­fore hit­ting a sub­merged reef and aban­don­ing their beached ves­sel with Spain’s cus­toms ser­vice in hot pur­suit.

Ac­cord­ing to the Royal Gi­bral­tar Po­lice and eye­wit­ness ac­counts, the Span­ish he­li­copter hov­ered low over the beached speed­boat while the pa­trol boat de­ployed a small dinghy, which en­tered the shel­tered la­goon in Sandy Bay and headed to the shore.

Gi­bral­tar po­lice were de­ployed to the scene and ar­rested two of the sus­pected smug­glers on land. A third man man­aged to es­cape.

Author­i­ties in Gi­bral­tar said Span­ish cus­toms had failed to alert them about the chase or re­quest as­sis­tance.

“We con­sider this has been a se­ri­ous and un­nec­es­sary fail­ure on the part of the Span­ish cus­toms ser- vice which has had out­ra­geous con­se­quence in re­spect of the vi­o­la­tion of our sovereignty,” said Gi­bral­tar’s Chief Min­is­ter, Fabian Pi­cardo, in a state­ment.

He blamed Span­ish cus­toms for act­ing a way “that, in ef­fect, has al­lowed a crim­i­nal who should be be­hind bars to get away.”

For­eign Of­fice Min­is­ter Hugo Swire, in a state­ment, con­demned the “in­cur­sions” as “un­law­ful.”

“These re­peated in­cur­sions into Bri­tish Gi­bral­tar Ter­ri­to­rial Wa­ters are a clear vi­o­la­tion of UK sovereignty by another EU coun­try and we will be rais­ing this as a mat­ter of ur­gency with the Span­ish author­i­ties,” he said.

This is the most se­ri­ous in a string of sim­i­lar in­ci­dents in the wa­ters around Gi­bral­tar, which are claimed by both the UK and Spain.

Although po­lice and cus­toms in Gi­bral­tar regularly co­op­er­ate with their Span­ish coun­ter­parts, dis­agree­ments over ju­ris­dic­tion mean there is no for­mal pro­to­col in place.

As a re­sult tense ex­changes are com­mon­place, par­tic­u­larly when Span­ish ves­sels at­tempt to take ac­tion in wa­ters that the UK re­gards as Bri­tish but which are also claimed by Spain.

Ear­lier this month a Span­ish cus­toms ves­sel chased a speed­boat into a de­mar­cated swimming area off another Gi­bral­tar beach.

The ac­tion was dubbed as “ir­re­spon­si­ble” by Gi­bral­tar and led the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment to lodge a diplo­matic protest with of­fi­cials in Madrid.

Smug­gling of hashish from Morocco through the strait of Gi­bral­tar reaches a peak in the sum­mer when the weather is fair.

Spain is one of Europe’s main en­try point of drugs com­ing from Africa or South Amer­ica.

Spain ceded Gi­bral­tar to the United King­dom in per­pe­tu­ity in 1713 but has long ar­gued that it should be re­turned to Span­ish sovereignty. Lon­don says it will not do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians, who are staunchly pro-Bri­tish.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.