By John Ensor •
Published: 04 Dec 2023 • 12:03
Gang supplied adulterated olive oil.
Credit: Guardia Civil.es
A recent international operation has revealed a shocking scandal in the olive oil industry, raising the question: How far will unscrupulous criminals go to make money?
On Monday, December 4, a report from the Guardia Civil revealed how they, in collaboration with Italian Carabinieri and Europol, apprehended eleven individuals linked to an illicit olive oil distribution network. This operation spanned across Spain and Italy, including regions such as Ciudad Real, Jaen, and Cordoba.
The Guardia Civil’s Seprona unit initially uncovered the scheme during an inspection in Manzanares, Ciudad Real. They discovered anomalies in a truck carrying olive oil, sparking a larger investigation.
The Judicial Police’s Organic Unit then initiated ‘Operation Omegabad,’ unearthing a complex web of underhand practices. The criminal group, with branches in Spain and Italy, was engaged in the international distribution of tampered olive oil.
In Spain, the group’s operations involved purchasing lower-grade oils and fraudulently upgrading them from cloudy or lampante to virgin and extra virgin. They achieved this by blending substandard oils with high-quality olive oil, manipulating fat and erythrodiol levels to pass quality checks.
Crucially, they falsified documentation and avoided product traceability, making their activities harder to track.
Similarly, in Italy, companies merged oils from various major olive oil-producing countries, entering the European Union mainly through Portugal. They employed similar falsification techniques and lacked traceability controls, mirroring their Spanish counterpart.
The coordinated effort between the Guardia Civil, Italian Carabinieri, and Europol led to simultaneous raids in both Spain and Italy.
Eleven arrests were made during eight property searches, including oil bottling plants in Ciudad Real, Jaen, and Cordoba. Authorities confiscated 16 oil tanks and over 5,200 litres of adulterated olive oil, ready for sale.
Additionally, over €91,000 in cash, four luxury vehicles, and several bank accounts were seized, marking a significant blow to the criminal network.
This operation highlights the extent of criminal activities in seemingly mundane industries and the importance of international cooperation in combating such sophisticated schemes.
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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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