Two Arrested in Spain for Allegedly Buying Military-Grade Weapons for Mexican Cartels

File Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

by SYLVIA LONGMIRE14 Dec 20152

Two alleged gun-runners were arrested in Spain on charges of buying military-grade weapons for drug cartels in Mexico. The controversy over how high-powered weapons get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels has been raging for years. US suppliers are often in the cross-hairs, so the recent arrest of individuals buying military-grade weapons for the cartels in Spain put a twist on perceptions of weapons trafficking to Mexico.

According to Fox News Latino, two gun runners in Barcelona were allegedly selling, among other things, anti-tank rocket launchers, grenade launchers and sniper and assault rifles that drug smugglers could use to protect drug shipments from Mexico to the US. A police statement indicated the investigation began when police uncovered evidence of money laundering and drug trafficking.

More disturbing is the fact one of the individuals allegedly selling the weapons is a 40 year-old man from Iran. The other suspect is a 44 year-old Swiss national, and the two were arrested in November after a surveillance operation gathered evidence of meetings with buyers in a hotel. Authorities were able to seize detailed notes of the weapons being ordered. The police statement made on December 13 also indicated the investigation was conducted in collaboration with the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

No information was available to indicate which Mexican cartel was placing the weapons order, although the Sinaloa Federation is most well known for conducting drug trafficking operations and maintaining logistics networks in Europe.

Controversy has swirled for years over how everything from pistols to rifles to military grade hardware are getting into Mexico, and from what sources. The US and Mexican governments claim the vast majority of cartel weapons come from US sources–particularly gun shops and gun shows along the border, through a method called straw purchasing. However, gun rights advocates believe most of these weapons come from other sources, like corrupt Mexican police and military units, Central America, and Eastern Europe. Due to the severely incomplete nature of data regarding gun seizures and tracing in Mexico, arrests like these provide some of the very few windows into the nature of Mexican weapons trafficking operations.