Mass Arrests Following Europol Drug Smuggling Raids

The Spanish Civil Guard have completed an international operation, co-ordinated by the Europol law enforcement agency to bring down a sophisticated drug smuggling operation.

The operation, also involving the Belgian Federal Police and French Gendarmerie arrested 17 gang members (11 Spaniards and 6 Moroccans), and successfully dismantled an organised crime group involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.

The network was involved in large-scale drug trafficking, mainly of cocaine and hashish, to Southern Spain using speedboats.

The alleged leader of the organisation was arrested and is believed to be one of the major importers of cocaine and hashish from Morocco to the Iberian Peninsula.

The gang created and used a large network of front companies, including several cash-intensive businesses such as two restaurants in Barcelona to launder the proceeds.

The profits were also laundered through the payment of mortgages and company loans.

The suspects also used cash to cover costs related to facilitating their drug trafficking activities and buying the required equipment, such as cars and vessels.

The authorities raided 16 premises in Barcelona, Cadiz and Galicia and seized more than €6 million in assets including real estate, luxury cars and watches and €1 million in cash.

In addition, 760 lottery tickets with a value of €15 200 were also seized and 33 bank accounts frozen.