Europol supports Spanish authorities in taking down Europe’s biggest ‘narco-bank’

Europol supports Spanish authorities in taking down Europe’s biggest 'narco-bank'. Image: Narek87/Shutterstock.com

With the support of Europol and Eurojust, the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) and Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria) have dismantled an organised crime group believed to be running Europe’s biggest ‘narco-bank’.

Composed mainly of Syrian nationals, the criminal network running the ‘narco-bank’ provided financial services to criminal organisations linked to drug trafficking in more than twenty countries.

Active since 2020, this criminal gang is believed to have laundered over €300 million per year, as reported on Friday, October 14.

On September 27, over 200 law enforcement officers raided a total of 21 locations in the Spanish provinces of Málaga and Toledo, resulting in 32 arrests and the seizure of almost €3 million of criminal assets.

Details of the seizures:

  • €428,205 in cash
  • 19 cryptocurrency accounts worth €1.5 million
  • 11 luxury vehicles
  • 70 kilos of hashish, 1.2 tonnes of marijuana and a plantation with 995 marijuana plants

These seizures follow that of €2.9 million in cash made over the course of the investigation.

Organised crime groups could make payments, receive funds and even have their proceeds laundered by this internationally structured financial network. 

The Spanish city of Fuenlabrada appeared to be the centre of the underground bank. The criminals ran their money laundering activities from a local restaurant where their customers would come to deposit or collect bulk cash.

The hawala informal money transfer system was the main money laundering typology used to avoid law enforcement detection.  

Europol’s support was central in the development of the Spanish investigation. Since May 2020, Europol has been providing continuous intelligence development and analysis to map out the international activity of this criminal network. Two experts from its European Financial and Economic Crime Centre were also deployed to Madrid to assist the Spanish investigation with the cross-checking of operational information during the action day. 

This investigation was financially supported by the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).


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Written by

Matthew Roscoe

Originally from the UK, Matthew is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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