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Los Castañas: Two brothers and Spain’s most notorious drug cartel

By David Amoruso for Gangsters Inc.

Borders and smugglers make for the perfect love hate relationship. On the one hand, the dividing line creates a barrier between them and their product. On the other, it adds a significant value to it. Especially when the thing you smuggle is drugs. Like two brothers who formed Los Castañas and set up a narco fiefdom in the Spanish border town of La Linea de la Concepción.

The town of La Linea de la Concepción became notorious for its drug smugglers and as no-go area for local police and authorities. Located in the province of Cádiz in Andalusia, Spain. It lies in the Bay of Gibraltar, and functions as an entry point for narcotics smuggled in from Morocco in North Africa, just a short distance across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Robbing tobacco, trafficking drugs

Its location enabled scores of smugglers to traffic anything from tobacco to people and drugs from Morocco to Spain. Among them two brothers by the name of Antonio and Francisco Tejón. They got their start by robbing tobacco smugglers. Once they had enough money in the bank, they began setting up their own shipments.

But rather than tobacco, they went into the business of trafficking hashish, a much more lucrative product. With their organization, known as Los Castañas, they eventually cornered the market on hashish, controlling over 70 percent of the product going through La Linea de la Concepción. They even formed a partnership with the Italian ‘Ndrangheta, known as Europe’s premier cocaine trafficking group.

Untold riches for the untouchables

With this powerful position came enormous wealth. Millions poured in enabling the brothers to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle filled with beautiful women, expensive hotels, big yachts, and fast cars. Antonio Tejón is considered the group’s leader and is estimated to have acquired a personal fortune of €60 million euros ($70 million dollars).

Photo: Francisco Tejón (right) and Antonio

The untold riches gave the brothers even more influence and control over the area. La Linea became a no-go area for police and once the sun went down one could observe boats filled with drug packages arriving on its beaches and scores of men running to collect them and bring them to safety across the street in the cartel-controlled neighborhoods. There was nothing secretive about any of it.

This atmosphere of being able to traffic narcotics with impunity, created a feeling among the narcos of being untouchable. When a leading figure of Los Castañas was arrested in February of 2018, a group of armed masked men entered the hospital where he was being treated to set him free and bring him back home.

Takedown

Authorities could no longer tolerate such behavior any longer. They began intensifying efforts to take down the Castaña Cartel. Dozens of Castaña members were arrested in busts. Antonio Tejón and his brother Francisco had been fugitives since 2016, but now felt the cops breathing down their necks. They fled to Morocco, staying with contacts there. But eventually made their way back home.

By now, they were too high profile to continue flying under the radar. On June 7 of 2018, police arrested Antonio in a hideout in La Linea. Only a handful of cops, three or four, knew the name of their target that day. Investigators had narrowed his location down to around six hideouts and pounced when they found out which one was a sure thing. Antonio was unable to resist. He was handcuffed and taken to a police car straight away. His arrest was filmed by police, watch the clip below:

Narcos and music videos

This left Francisco Tejón to run the criminal enterprise. But without Antonio (right), other rival gangs smelled blood in the water and began testing the new leader of Los Castañas. There was an uptick in violence and cases of rival drug traffickers robbing each other. At times, robbers would dress up as cops and pretend to raid rivals, then steal their drugs. This proved extremely dangerous when police went on real raids and were confronted with smugglers who believed they were facing robbers. This usually resulted in shootings and stand-offs until the traffickers realized they really were facing members of the police department.

Francisco Tejón, meanwhile, went on running his business. But he was different than his brother Antonio, who was known as family man who loved spending time with his wife and children. Francisco liked the narco lifestyle: Sex, drugs, violence, and rock & roll.

Spanish drug traffickers were never really flamboyant in public, La Linea police chief Francisco Lopez says. “They’d rather be discrete, because if they get too much attention things can end badly. They get attention from police, the state, media and that doesn’t help their business. But the younger generation doesn’t think that way.”

Francisco Tejón proved Lopez’ point when he appeared in a music video of Cuban reggaeton singer Clase A. In the video, the two men are seen arriving in a $200,000-dollar Bentley and enjoying themselves in a hot tub with scantily clad women and bottles of champaign.

Photo: Cuban reggaeton singer Clase A and Francisco Tejón

Lopez explains that by the point of the release of this video, police had already been pressuring Francisco’s family and associates and keeping them under close surveillance. He was the most wanted drug boss in Spain and now flaunted his wealth in this music video. Police saw it as a provocation and think it was intended that way.

The clip gave investigators extra incentive to intensify their search. The pressure on the entire drug underworld was mounting. Relatives, friends, associates, and rivals began complaining and urged Francisco to turn himself in. He knew they were right. In October of 2018, he turned himself in to relieve police pressure on his world. When he gave himself up, he was surrounded by family and friends.

Arrest and freedom

More drug busts targeting the Castaña Clan followed. In June of this year police arrested 40 members of the group in 19 mansions in El Zabal, a neighborhood in la Línea de Concepción. The area was known as Villanarco because of the many drug traffickers living there.

Though arresting the narcos has not been that much trouble for police, prosecutors are finding it difficult to get charges to stick to the two brothers that are at the head of the organization. Antonio Tejón was released from prison because prosecutors failed to bring a case despite having their man locked up behind bars for over two years.

Thus, this summer, Antonio was released from prison. Only to be arrested again on September 14. This time, he was charged with being a member of criminal organization, bribery, and money laundering. “Aren't there any murders to charge me with?” Antonio joked after hearing what he was accused of, according to El Español newspaper. He paid bail and was out on the streets within a few hours, a walking talking example of a narco kingpin who gets away with making millions as if he is above the law.

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