Eleven Brits have been arrested for running a multi-million-GBP underground tobacco factory in southern Spain that reportedly produced 3,500 cigarettes an hour while hidden under a horse stable.
The clandestine tobacco factory, considered the first such case in Europe, was based in Malaga in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, according to local media.
Reports said that 20 people have been arrested so far, including 11 British nationals.
Daniel Doobs, 30, has been identified as one suspect. He was sentenced in the UK for drug trafficking and making fake documents, but fled the country two years ago when he was given permission to temporarily leave prison, according to reports.
Local media said the fugitive fled to Malaga and went into business with British man Andrew Cook who he set up the factory with.
Cook has also reportedly been arrested in the operation.
According to local media, they bought the tobacco machines in Poland and the Czech Republic after constructing an underground factory that had a horse stable installed overhead. The suspects even bought horses to make it appear like a normal activity.
The factory was able to produce 3,500 cigarettes every hour and they packaged them in the name of a brand well-known in the UK before transporting them in vehicles to Britain, according to local media.
Reports said the business made millions of GBP in profits during its operation.
A Spanish Civil Guard spokesman told Central European News (CEN): “All of them were living in Malaga.”
According to reports, the local authorities grew suspicious when they noticed a large number of tobacco deliveries during routine traffic checks and officers investigated where the vans were leaving from.
Cops found the horse stables at the departure point, but needed several hours before coming across the hidden entrance that was located under a shipping container.
The entrance had stairs and a service lift leading down to the factory situated four metres underground.
Police reportedly found 153,000 cigarette packets, 17.600 kilogrammes of tobacco, 20 kilogrammes of hashish and 144 kilogrammes of cannabis.
The area also held beds, a bathroom and a kitchen, according to reports.
Local media said six Ukrainian workers were found living in poor conditions and that they had to work 10-day shifts without stopping before being replaced by other workers.
In total, 13 properties were raided by the police and 20 people have been arrested.
The six Ukrainian workers have been released from custody on charges, but are still being investigated over possible links to human trafficking. Two Lithuanian men have been released pending charges, according to the spokesman.
Local media said 12 of the 20 detainees are being held in custody as the investigation continues.