The Spanish National Police, in collaboration with Europol, has dismantled the largest drug trafficking network on the Spanish Mediterranean, arresting 81 people and seizing more than two million euros in cash.
The operation, involving law enforcement authorities from Colombia, France, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom, resulted in the freezing of 800 bank accounts and the seizure of 73 vehicles, two sailboats, and a 25-meter long yacht. Luxury watches, precious stones, jewels and property worth around 20 million euros were also confiscated during raids in Barcelona, Alicante, Valencia, Madrid and Galicia.
The criminal organisation – mainly based in Alicante but with branches in Madrid, Galicia, Valencia, Murcia and Barcelona – was engaged in drug trafficking throughout the European Union.
Europol described the organisation as a “highly structured group” that recruited people with no history of drug trafficking and used careful security measures to hide their trail. Except for the leaders, based in Alicante, its members were divided into independent groups who did not know the role that others played.
The organisation had a team specialised in counter-surveillance, debt collections, extortion and vuelcos (violent robberies between organised crime groups while impersonating police officers). According to Europol, the group was “particularly violent” and recently lost a member, murdered in the Valencian town of Campello.
Despite the meticulous methods employed by the gang to avoid detection, multiple arrests and seizures eventually led to recklessness in the gang’s operations and allowed the authorities to detect movements of money between the leaders of the organisation, as well as interactions with other criminal groups with which they formed alliances. This included a Swedish criminal group that began moving into Barcelona and with which the network came into contact in order to improve its infrastructure and capabilities.
Collaboration between Spanish and the Swedish police allowed led to the arrest of the Swedish gang’s leader along with three of its collaborators.