[ Source : BBC ]
Spanish police have arrested 18 people alleged to be involved in a shamanic organisation that sold hallucinogenic drugs to its members.
The suspects are accused of promoting organised rituals involving banned psychoactive substances.
The substances are said to have included ayahuasca and toad venom.
Mescaline, a well-known hallucinogenic drug, and poisonous secretions from tree frogs were also said to be used and sold by the organisation.
The group operated out of so-called “epicentres for inner evolution” across Spain but was also said to be active in 10 other countries in Europe and Latin America.
The group became known to investigators after they said they found adverts online promoting neo-shamanic rituals. Police said the adverts promised “an improvement in physical and mental health through the consumption of psychoactive substances”.
Investigators eventually uncovered a headquarters allegedly belonging to the organisation in the Colombian jungle, “where it had the means and raw materials necessary” to prepare products such as its “ayahuasca concoction”.
Fifteen of the arrests were in Madrid, where officers said they also seized more than 60kg of ayahuasca, a psychoactive drink made of plants.
They also said they seized €24,000 ($26,000), in various currencies, and 1kg (35oz) of mescaline.
Police footage of a raid showed officers searching a house and finding money, what appeared to be bags of pills and a room filled with beds.
At one point, a police dog can be seen sniffing out a wallet containing sums of money.
The 18 people detained have been charged with “developing profit-making rituals involving the use of banned psychoactive substances”.
Some are also charged with human trafficking crimes, violation of workers’ rights and smuggling, police said in a report.
Police allege that the consumption of the hallucinogenic drugs tended to be overseen by a doctor and his partner, who “posed as a medical graduate.” Both have been arrested.
Meanwhile, the group’s leader, who officers said was seen by his followers as a spiritual figure, died during a joint investigation with Spain’s national tax agency.
He has been posthumously charged with crimes of a sexual nature and encouraging illegal immigration.
Belgium, Ireland, Mexico, Colombia and Turkey are among the other countries police said the group are known to have been active in.