Money laundering professionals in Spain melt gold in €70 million racket

A CRIMINAL organisation of professional money launderers that ‘cleaned’ more than €70 million for Colombian and Asian gangs has been broken up in Spain.

Twenty-eight people have been arrested, 22 of them in Spain and six in the Netherlands, and 19 commercial companies are being investigated. In addition, seven firearms, 100 vehicles and more than 70 buildings and bank accounts have been seized or embargoed.

The investigation has also found as link between more than 5,000 kilos of cocaine seized in Holland with some of those investigated. Spain’s National Police together with the Guardia Civil found that the organisation was based mainly in Madrid and Toledo.

It provided its services to other criminal groups, mostly Asian – dedicated to fraud against the public treasury – and Colombian – dedicated to international drug trafficking – who were charged a commission of between 10 and 15 per cent. The arrested people had set up a large number of companies in fields such as import-import, real estate management and the buying and selling of gold and other precious metals such as silver or platinum.

These companies were in the name of front men who lent their identity in exchange for money, and so giving the organisation access to a series of bank accounts.
In the case of the Asian scheme, where clients mainly wanted to avoid paying taxes, entrepreneurs contacted the organisation, delivering the money in cash.

The launderers then contacted various petty criminals from whom they acquired jewellery from burglaries. These were melted into ingots, and then sold to wholesalers who paid money by bank transfers. Through this system of buying and melting gold, the dismantled organisation acquired more than 2,000 kilos of gold on the black market.

Next they would transfer the money raised between their front companies with false invoicing, before finally transferring it to the destination country through the fake import-export companies, again backed by false invoices and fake contracts.

Police also detected the simulation of commercial operations. The launderers, after receiving the money and circulating it among their companies, transferred it to the companies of the “clients” justifying it as payment for goods or services. This money was then used to buy property.

The investigation revealed that the disbanded organisation was contacting people of Colombian origin – living mainly in the Netherlands – from whom it received large amounts of cash. More than €2 million from this group was laundered and later invested in the real estate market of Madrid and Toledo.

This Colombian group has been linked to the seizure of 5,000 kilos of cocaine in the Netherlands. Information found by the Spanish police has been sent to their Dutch colleagues to help them investigate that case.

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Written by

Dilip Kuner

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