The Guía flew back from the chill weather of Oslo and arrived in Malaga on an early morning flight, the aircraft full of Norwegian tourists seeking the sunny Costa del Sol climate. Leaving the terminal, he paid the parking charge and collected his 5-Series BMW, one of the few luxuries he afforded himself, from the short-term car park. Accelerating the car out of the airport on to the A-7 motorway heading for the AP-7 toll road, less than two hours later he drove into the boatyard in Almeria. Temperatures were soaring under the blazing sun overhead, the recent storm long forgotten by the hundreds of holidaymakers enjoying the beach and the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
With the deal made with the mafiya, the next stage was to send the funds to pay for the merchandise. The Guía’s recent business venture, the conduit, would now come into play. It had been started after members of the Iraqi Islamic Party had approached him, who needed a pipeline to the West for various illicit goods including shipments of cash and the occasional human cargo. The party, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, had secretly been formed during the nationalist rule of Abd al-Karim Qasim. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in the US led attack in 2003, it had re-emerged as one of the main political parties advocating the country’s Sunni community. Sharply critical of the US occupation, the party’s Imams had encouraged Jihad and attacks had started and continued in earnest against the infidels.
The Guía had listened to their requirements and mindful that he would help his brothers in their fight against the infidels, and make lucrative commissions on the transactions into the bargain, had gone ahead. With help from his former drug trafficking contacts the fledgling business was soon up and running. Using cunning and skill, he had grown it into a successful conduit for illegal funds. Not one to rest on his laurels, he had expanded the business by structuring the cash into legitimate assets.
In 2014, the ISIS invasion of northern Iraq had netted huge amounts of gold and currency, mainly US dollars, looted from banks in the captured towns and cities. Because of the vigilance of the Western powers, it was becoming nigh on impossible to transfer large amounts of illegally gained cash anywhere in the world. On the recommendations of the Iraqi Islamic Party, ISIS began using the Guía’s conduit, the spoils being split up into shipments and smuggled regularly to the west. The relationship between the leaders of ISIS and the Guía blossomed, founded on trust and a common hatred of the western world and its transgressions against Islam.
The shipments originating in Iraq were smuggled across Turkey to the start of the conduit, a small warehouse the Guía had leased in the Rumeli Kavağı docks on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. From there, the contraband was hidden among the general cargo carried in the hold of the Hayalet, a Turkish registered traditional cargo gullet specially designed and built for the purpose, which plied its trade from its home port across the Mediterranean.
The Hayalet, meaning ‘ghost’ in Turkish, lived up to her name, sailing the high seas and disappearing like a wraith long before detection by coast guard cutters and the like. The gullet’s wooden hull gave a poor return and often failed to appear on radar screens. Using her own disguised, powerful long-range radar to detect other vessels, she would quickly change course, using her fast, twin supercharged diesel engines to get out of harm’s way. On the occasional times she was stopped and boarded, the inspections were short and cursory, as customs officers did not want to stay long on board the purposely dirty, evil smelling ship.
At the other end of the Mediterranean, the city of Tangiers in northern Morocco has long been famous for its medina, the old quarter and its large covered market, the soukh. For years, it has been a free port where cargo ships could unload out-of-bond cargo immune from any French or Spanish taxes. These cargoes supported the considerable smuggling operations that started after the Second World War when war surplus motor torpedo boats could be cheaply purchased by the smugglers. The MTB’s, with their powerful engines, could easily outrun the slower Spanish custom’s launches on their journeys across The Straits of Gibraltar to the coastline of Spain. Loaded full to the gunwales with silk stockings, perfume and hundreds of cartons of Camel and Lucky Strike cigarettes, fortunes had been made. The smuggling continues to this day, although the cargoes have now changed to drugs and people trafficking.
Helped by the Guía’s contacts in Morocco made during his time in the drugs business, it was here that he had purchased another small warehouse in the Port de Tanger-Med docks close to the city. This warehouse, acting under the guise of a business packing and shipping pistachios, walnuts and almonds, all normal produce of Morocco, was the other end of the conduit. The Hayalet would shortly set sail with a lethal cargo of death.