By Brian O'Malley • 06 October 2022 • 23:47
Fake 500 euro banknotes seized by Spanish police. Image: Europol/Official
On September 21 2022 Europol lead a joint operation with the Spanish Policía Nacional and the Catalonian Mossos d’Esquadra to dismantle an organised crime group involved in printing and distributing counterfeit 500 euro notes.
The intervention also involved the Bank of Spain’s Investigation Brigade, support units from the Spanish Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial) and Anti-Riot Units (Unidades de Intervención Policial) to facilitate access and secure the area. Canine units were also deployed to detect counterfeit banknotes.
During the operation, a clandestine print shop was dismantled and 12 people were arrested. 9 locations were searched in Alicante, Barcelona, Malaga and Valencia. EUR 4.3 million fake 500 euro banknotes were seized and a large amount of equipment (several printing presses, an insulation machine, a hot stamping machine, a paper guillotine and raw materials).
The counterfeiters used top-end technology to produce some of the most sophisticated fakes detected in the EU. Investigators from the Bank of Spain’s Investigation Brigade identified the main suspect behind the print shop as an individual already known by authorities detained for similar criminal activities in 2009. These counterfeits were of better quality but had similarities to the 2009 counterfeits, which lead to the same suspect.
The investigators estimate that in as little as three months, the suspects printed more than EUR 8 million in this clandestine print shop. The members of the criminal network supplied raw materials, mainly from China, and managed the printing equipment. The fake money was used for different criminal activities including drug trafficking.
Europol facilitated information exchange, and financed and coordinated operational activities. Europol also provided analytical support identifying the country in which the banknotes were distributed.
Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime, and other serious and organised crime forms. Europol also works with many non-EU partner states and international organisations.
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