Spanish Police Assist In Operation That Smashes International Vehicle Trafficking Network

Image of a National Police vehicle in Spain.

Policia Nacional vehicle. Credit: P P Photos/

IN a joint operation with the French National Police, EUROPOL and INTERPOL, Spain’s National Police smashed an international vehicle trafficking network.

The organisation was made up of different cells, each comprising three or four individuals. They reportedly stole more than 170 luxury cars to order.

Orders for the vehicles to be stolen were sent through an instant messaging channel to the gang’s leader. Using this system, buyers would indicate the exact brand and model of vehicle they wanted.

Using state-of-the-art electronic devices, the gang’s members subsequently stole these cars in different European countries, including France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Spain.

A total of 15 people were detained, three of whom have already been sent to prison. During 13 searches, police officers confiscated numerous tools used in the theft of vehicles. They also seized switchboards, 12 mobile phones, falsified driving licences, number plates and quantities of cash.

French police initially learned of the gang’s existence

The investigation was launched after the French National Police informed their counterparts in Spain of the existence of an organisation based in Paris which was known to have branches in Spain.

It was dedicated to the theft of vehicles throughout Europe for their subsequent illegal transfer and registration in African countries they explained. The network was believed to have been operating since at least January 2021.

The gang’s leader operated out of France and in addition to ordering the theft of the vehicles, he was also responsible for arranging when they should be shipped to Africa and from where.

No specific criminal pattern was evident

Due to the variety of costs involved in running their operation, no specific criminal pattern was evident, which made the investigation a lot harder.

After receiving their appropriate instructions, the cell members were in charge of searching, locating and stealing the vehicles, even if they had to travel long distances to achieve their objectives.

Their modus operandi consisted of stealing medium-high-range vehicles parked on public roads using state-of-the-art electronic devices.

Sometimes they would rent the cars using false documentation, or in the name of third parties, then never returned them.

They were subsequently transported by road to the ports of Le Havre, Marseille and Barcelona. There, they were placed in containers for shipping and illegal registration in countries on the African continent, while declaring them as legal merchandise in the form of furniture.

The operation was executed in mid-September

In mid-September, the operation was executed, with the arrest of 15 people. Those arrested were charged with the theft of at least 170 vehicles in different countries. The theft of 20 of them was proven only in the 15 days prior to the arrests.

Once the arrests were made, and the information and documentation seized were analysed, the police discovered that the organisation had sent three containers to Dakar in Senegal, from the ports of Le Havre and Las Palmas.

After further investigations, the containers were located and unloaded. Nine stolen vehicles valued at more than €360,000 were found inside them, already prepared for transportation.

Likewise, some days later, a fourth container was intervened in the Port of Algeciras, inside which three other stolen cars were discovered, as reported by

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he 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