Officers from the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), supported by Europol, have dismantled an organized crime group involved in property crime, facilitation of illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
The action day in December resulted in 24 arrests and seizures of vehicles, 3.5 kg of ecstasy pills, 56 grams of phencyclidine, 710 boxes of smuggled tobacco, stolen goods, electronic equipment, documents and about €40,000 in cash.
The investigation uncovered that the criminal network was smuggling migrants from Algeria to Spain, but also fugitives from Europe to the Middle East, taking advantage of the boats on their way back to Algeria. The network was involved in other criminal activities including trafficking of synthetic drugs, property crime, tobacco smuggling and trafficking of documents. On the first action day, investigators found a warehouse that was being used by the suspects. Inside the warehouse, they discovered a large number of stolen items that were being prepared to be smuggled to Algeria. The warehouse was sealed off as a result of the action.
The investigators proved that the criminal network facilitated the smuggling of 250 irregular migrants into Spain in 54 separate incidents in the last few months. The criminal group was very well structured, with some members solely involved in management tasks, and others in accommodation or transportation. Hawaladars connected to the network sponsored the illegal trips of migrants and charged high rates of interest. The officers from the Spanish Police also discovered that the leader of the gang and his wife used their nine-year-old son as a drug courier.
Migrants were charged €5,000 for the crossing from Algeria to Almería, Spain and between €700 and €1,000 from Spain to France. The suspects used forerunner cars to cross the border with France.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed an expert to Spain to assist with the cross-checking of operational information against Europol’s databases and to provide technical support with data extraction and analysis of digital evidence.