Gardaí involved in major operation against ‘logistics and money laundering’ gang in Spain
15th November 2022
GARDAÍ HAVE PARTICIPATED in an operation in Spain in which several members of an international Organised Crime Group were arrested.
A statement by Europol said the Spanish detentions were part of a “clamp down on the lavish lifestyles of a criminal group”.
Twenty-seven suspects were arrested and large quantities of drugs, cash, luxury properties and high-end vehicles were seized.
The Irish involvement was part of a Europe-wide operation which also involved the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Along with Ireland, police from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the UK were involved.
Europol said that the operation was focused on a crime group which was providing “financial and technical support to other criminal groups in Europe”.
Europol said that their mission was in two stages with the first being raids on suspects in Barcelona in the last twelve months.
“Following an analysis of devices and documentation seized on the first action day, investigators were able to link 10 people with bringing 117 tons of hashish and over 3 tons of cocaine into Spain.
During the second phase of the action, the Guardia Civil raided venues in Barcelona, Ceuta, Almería and Malaga, where the suspects of Spanish, German and Moroccan nationality were apprehended. Among them is the main suspect’s lawyer, who specialises in cases related to drug trafficking.
Part of the evidence seized by the Spanish authorities was a haul of 39 phones, a satellite phone, eight computers, three microphone scanners as well as a cash counting machine.
These items provided critical intelligence data which led to identifying the wider network.
They also found 14 tons of hashish, 5.1 tons of cocaine and more than €1m in cash.
“The organised crime group clandestinely imported boats and powerful engines from the Netherlands, made them ready on a ship off the coast of Portugal, and then used them to collect and transfer the drugs from Morocco to Spain.
“Three vessels were subsequently seized during the action days, adding to the impressive list of confiscated valuables. These include 11 real estate properties, 5 companies, 36 luxury cars, the contents of 58 bank accounts and 12 luxury watches,” the Europol statement added.
As part of the operation, Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) investigated the methods used by the gang to launder cash. These included the “clandestine transport of large amounts of cash”, the use of the hawala system to transfer money.
Hawala is a system of cash transfer between people which does not use banking methods and is particularly prevalent in Africa.
The gang also invested in luxury goods such as yachts, luxury watches, luxury vehicles or pumped the money through property and even renovation projects.
The criminal network also invested in companies located in several European countries, and used loans and mortgages to businesses to launder the cash.
In September Europol said that John Francis Morrissey, an alleged senior member of the Kinahan Organised Crime Group, was arrested in Spain.
It is claimed by Spanish police and the gardaí that he was involved in laundering €200 million in just over one year.
The 62-year-old was arrested this week in the south of Spain, where the Kinahan gang was primarily based for many years before moving operations to Dubai.
Earlier this year, the US imposed sanctions on Morrissey along with six other members of the gang as part of an international effort to apprehend its leading figures.
The US Office of Foreign Assets Control said Morrissey was accused of money laundering and serving as the organisation’s enforcer and facilitator of illicit drug shipments from South America.
Greg Gatjanis, one of several US officials who spoke at a briefing in Dublin City Hall in April, described the cartel as a global criminal enterprise with “tentacles spreading across many countries”.
The sanctions barred US banks and companies from doing business with the seven individuals, as well as three businesses named by the US Treasury Department, and they were banned from boarding US airlines.
Law enforcement agencies also announced multi-million euro rewards for information leading to the arrest of Christy Kinahan Senior, the founder of the cartel, and his sons Christy Kinahan Junior and Daniel Kinahan.