By John Ensor •
Published: 19 Oct 2023 • 15:28
Police Uncover European Crime Gang.
In a significant crackdown, investigators have taken down a European crime syndicate that focused on laundering money obtained from drug trafficking and luxury vehicle smuggling.
On Thursday, October 19, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior gave details of the sting that took place in Bizkaia, Basque country, where the principal operations of the gang were identified. Significant operations were also detected in Madrid, Cantabria, Segovia, the UK, and Belgium with EUROPOL’s assistance.
The criminals cleverly operated through a complex web of at least 10 firms. They intricately combined major companies, notably in the UK and Belgium, with businesses that displayed genuine activities. This clever blend made it exceptionally challenging to trace their gang’s assets.
To launder their drug money, they adopted a myriad of deceptive strategies. These involved using frontmen, raising false invoices, executing money transfers lower than the amount normally subjected to scrutiny, regularly switching company leadership, engaging in suspicious property deals, and using overseas accounts for payments.
The gang had a clear division of roles. The top brass directly oversaw the business setup meant for money laundering. Meanwhile, the lower-tier members managed drug distribution and all areas of illegal vehicle operations, from theft, and vehicle tampering to paperwork, and logistics.
During their raids in Bizkaia, Cantabria, and Segovia, the Guardia Civil unearthed evidence that included €13,700 in cash, 37 mobile phones, several vacuum pack machines, two cannabis farms, drugs, stolen number plates, and two concealed firearms with rounds.
Furthermore, they confiscated 14 luxury cars, all tampered with to give them a legitimate appearance. Two of these vehicles were equipped with state-of-the-art hidden compartments used for drug transport. In addition, 30 bank accounts linked to the criminals have been frozen.
The suspects are now facing a barrage of charges. These range from public health violations, money laundering, fraud, to illegal weapon possession and operating a criminal outfit. The gang employed encrypted messaging services to communicate, making the investigation by law enforcement officers a difficult task. Their methods also involved frequent mobile device switches.
The investigation, led by the Organic Unit of the Judicial Police of Bizkaia and the Territorial Team of Castro Urdiales in Cantabria, was aided by the invaluable support from Europol.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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