By John Ensor •
Published: 27 Nov 2023 • 12:45
Police recover 54 vehicles.
AN international ring of vehicle smugglers that stretched across Europe has been uncovered by the Spanish National Police.
In a significant crackdown, the National Police have dismantled a sophisticated international criminal organization specializing in the smuggling of vehicles. The arrests and seizures were made across several European countries, including Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Austria, according to a report from Spain’s Ministry of the Interior.
The investigation, which commenced in January, unearthed a criminal ring engaged in the illicit procurement of vehicles. The operation led to the arrest of 19 suspects – 16 in Spain (Madrid, Leon, Barcelona, Castellon, and Badajoz) and three in France. Additionally, the police recovered 54 vehicles valued at over one and a half million euros, alongside electronic devices and over €130,000 in cash.
Exploiting Rental Contracts
The primary method involved fraudulent rental agreements for medium to high-range vehicles and SUVs, using stolen identities. These vehicles were then moved through the organization’s network, often ending up in France for further shipment.
Companies As Facades
Another tactic involved acquiring financially weak legitimate companies for very little financial outlay. These entities were then used to rent multiple cars in a single transaction. Investigations revealed that up to 17 vehicles were acquired through this method.
Fraudulent Financing And Theft
A second branch of the organization focused on obtaining vehicles through fraudulent financing, using false documents to impersonate victims and secure luxury vehicles. Additionally, the group was involved in the theft and acquisition of stolen vehicles, which were then transferred to Spain and France.
Here, they were provided with falsified documents, making them available for the European and African markets, often via the port of Marseille.
The organization had a hierarchical structure, with the top echelons living a lavish lifestyle and masking their illicit earnings through successful nightclubs. Below them were intermediaries handling logistics, data theft, document forgery, and vehicle transportation. The lowest tier comprised individuals responsible for minor roles like vehicle collection and transport.
Thanks to international police cooperation, the operation led to the recovery of vehicles across various European Union locations. Moreover, one of the arrested individuals had been evading justice since 2020, with 11 outstanding arrest warrants, eight for imprisonment. The investigation continues, and further arrests are anticipated.
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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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