Police have detained 20 suspected money launderers and drug traffickers and seized assets worth over €5.5 million, it has been reported.
The operation was led by the Spanish Guardia Civil, with assistance from the Italian Central Directorate for Anti-Drug Services (Direzione Centrale Servizi Antidroga), and resulted in the seizure of assets and almost 2 tons of illegal substances.
The criminal network based in the south of Spain consisted of Albanian, Italian, Spanish, and Moroccan people and was led by Italian nationals who escaped capture by using forged identity documents.
The criminal organization utilized a range of money laundering techniques to conceal their drug trafficking earnings.
"These included the channelling of money – through business bank accounts using fake invoices, loans, or other debts – among a network of companies involved in the transport of drugs. Other methods used were investments in luxury real estate, rentals, luxury goods and vehicles, as well as cash payments," according to Europol.
The investigation was initiated in October 2021, when a cannabis shipment was discovered concealed within a truck delivering onion pallets.
In a statement, Europol said the operation led to:
• 6 houses searched in Seville, Spain
In a statement, Europol said the operation led to: • 20 suspects arrested
• assets seized worth an estimated at EUR 5.5 million
• 2 luxury watches and EUR 16 545 in cash seized
• 2 500 kilograms of hashish and 45.6 kilograms of marijuana seized
• criminal infrastructure seized including lorries, a boat, tools for marijuana cultivation and hashish production, and 34 mobile phones
• large marijuana plantation and drug lab discovered
• forged travel and identification documents seized
"As the Italian leaders of the criminal network were subjects of European Arrest Orders, they used falsified documents to veil their identities. Residing in towns between Seville and Malaga, they attempted to avoid detection by taking various security measures and by frequently changing their addresses ," Europol stated.
The two drivers were apprehended by law police and 468 kg of hashish was seized. In May 2022, a second seizure of 194 kilos of hashish and 30 kilograms of marijuana occurred.
In the same month, law enforcement seized a vessel chartered by the criminal organization on the open sea, resulting in the arrest of its three occupants and the confiscation of 1,800 kilograms of hashish and the vessel itself.
The seizure of this massive consignment from Morocco demonstrates that it has become more difficult for criminals to acquire illicit substances by sea. In order to bypass this problem, the organization had constructed a laboratory for hashish production and established a big marijuana plantation in southern Spain.
There were discovered during the operation, which comprised more than 150 law enforcement authorities. From the very outset of the inquiry, Europol supplied operational knowledge along with analytical and operational support. In addition, a Europol specialist was deployed in Spain for the main day of action.
The European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) addresses the most significant threats posed by international organized and serious crime to the EU.
EMPACT enhances the intelligence, strategic, and operational cooperation among national authorities, EU agencies and organizations, and international partners. EMPACT operates in four-year cycles and focuses on EU-wide criminal objectives.
By fLEXI tEAM