News World

Spain busts global neo-shamanic ring, seizes psychedelics

Spain busts global neo-shamanic ring, seizes psychedelics
Source: Unsplash

Spanish police said Wednesday they had broken up an international organisation that gave followers hallucinogenic substances, arresting 18 people and seizing over 60 kilos of ayahuasca and other mind-altering substances.

Operating out of so-called “epicentres for inner evolution”, the group was based in Spain but also was active in other countries including France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Finland, Romania, Malta, Mexico, Colombia and Turkey.

Fifteen of the 18 arrests took place in Madrid, with police saying the suspects had “promoted and developed profit-making rituals involving the use of banned psychoactive substances that endangered the health of the participants”.

Investigators were tipped off after finding a business network promoting neo-shamanic rituals online that promised “an improvement in physical and mental health through the consumption of psychoactive substances”.

The suspects also organised “inner evolution retreats” where they supplied banned and dangerous substances such as ayahuasca, sapo bufo toad venom and the poisonous secretions of kambo frogs among others.

Consumption was overseen by a doctor and his partner who was posing as a medical graduate.

Both were arrested.

The group also had an online platform for selling the substances.

Investigators said the organisation had a base in the Colombian jungle where they could access “the raw materials to produce the ayahuasca beverage”, a powerful hallucinogenic made from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine that has grown in the Amazon for thousands of years.

It was then smuggled into Spain through Madrid’s Barajas airport by human carriers — dubbed drug “mules” — or disguised as other products. Parcels containing mescaline and ayahuasca were also sent to the group members

During the raids, police confiscated 24,000 euros ($26,000) in various currencies, a kilo of mescaline and more than 60 kilogrammes of ayahuasca.

The detainees, mostly Latin Americans or Spaniards, were charged with belonging to a criminal organisation and public health offences, with some also facing charges of human trafficking, smuggling or impersonating a professional, among other offences.

The group’s leader, who was seen by his followers as a spiritual leader, died during the investigation but has been posthumously charged with crimes of a sexual nature and encouraging illegal immigration.

Investigators said such substances were commonly used in new-age ceremonies accompanied by lights, chanting and incense to help “induce dissociative states of consciousness that lead to the unconscious adoption” of certain behaviours.

“In this way, such psychoactive substances become an instrument used by the shaman for the recruitment and coercive control of the group,” the police statement said.


About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

Daily Newsletter