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'Narco bank', run by international crime gang, busted

What has been dubbed a European "narco bank" managed by a "massive international organized crime ring" has been dismantled by Spanish and German police.

The "bank" was operated by a criminal organization that offered financial services to several illegal organizations, most of whom were involved in drug trafficking.

Hamburg, Germany, looked to be the hub of the secret bank that had branches all around Spain.

44 people were detained as a result of the operation, which was conducted in May but just made public today (Monday). The suspects were from China, Spain, Morocco, and Germany.

Police claim that the criminal network used a sophisticated underground banking system to transport enormous sums of money. According to a statement of Europol, "Organised crime groups could make payments, receive funds and even have their proceeds laundered by this internationally structured financial network."

The operation comprised the issuance of 19 international arrest warrants and resulted in the seizure of more than €4 million, 23 luxury vehicles, and jewelry.

The network's gang members, according to the police, obtained actual cash from criminal organizations.

These big sums of money were transferred in cars with concealed storage spaces and added to a pool of money that was shared around many overseas sites.

Officers warned that "other criminal organizations could use these funds to provide cross-border payments or to finance their criminal activities."

One portion of the organization sent up to 200 kilos of hashish and cannabis from Spain to other regions of Europe each week, serving as a major source of funding for the unlawful system.

According to Europol, "a massive international organised crime ring has been broken up in a joint operation between the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and the German Criminal Bureau (Landeskriminalamt) of Hamburg."

A law enforcement action day in May 2022 resulted in 50 house searches in Spain and Hamburg, Germany, and 44 arrests.

In addition, 98 kilograms of cannabis were recovered by police, and a further 123 kilograms were seized a few days later, bringing the total amount of cannabis associated to this case to 650 kilograms. 51 kg of hashish were also seized during the operation.

During the action day, Europol sent three specialists on the scene and coordinated the countries' cooperation.

The organization's European Financial and Economic Centre offered analytical and operational support as well as operational experience.

"This investigation was carried out within the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). More specifically, it falls under the operational action plan “Criminal Finances, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery” which aims to combat and disrupt criminal networks and criminal individuals who are involved in criminal finances and money laundering," according to the agency.



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