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Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Footballers held in cocaine case

By Danny Wood
BBC News, Madrid

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Police unload cocaine from metal containers

Spanish police have arrested 11 people, including professional footballers and recruiting agents, over alleged involvement in drugs smuggling.

Six hundred kilogrammes (1,320lb) of cocaine have been seized.

The Spanish authorities believe the suspects were using their football connections as a cover for drugs trafficking.

Spanish news reports claim one of the former players detained was with first division club Atletico Madrid.

The same reports allege the leader of the drug smugglers is an ex-manager with a French first division team.

The police say two recruiting agents together with former and current professional footballers, are among the 11 people arrested in cities across Spain.

The police found the cocaine hidden in packets among machine parts for wind farms inside a shipping container in Madrid.

The drugs had been transported to Spain by boat from Argentina.

The authorities alleged the agents organised this smuggling operation while on a trip to Latin America recruiting professional footballers.

Last year Spanish police arrested more than 8,000 people for cocaine-related offences.

According to studies by the European Union, Spaniards consume more of the drug than any other nation in Europe.

Earlier, Spanish media quoted police as saying the two agents arrested on Thursday were licensed Fifa players' agents.

However, Fifa later said that no such position existed, as players' agents have not been licensed by Fifa since 2001. Instead, players' agents are licensed directly by each national association.

In a statement, Fifa said it "strongly condemned any criminal activities which may be, even if indirectly, associated to football".

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