A total of 32 suspects in the gang that used violence, including torture, to further their criminal goals were arrested
A total of 32 suspects in the gang that used violence, including torture, to further their criminal goals were arrested across Spain for their involvement in large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering.
The gang that has ties to the Italian ‘Ndrangheta was smashed in a massive police operation that was backed up by Europol involving the deployment of some 500 law enforcement officers as well as special intervention teams, canine units, helicopters and drones.
As well as the 32 arrests, the operation involved 40 house searches in Ibiza, Barcelona, Malaga and Tenerife.
An indoor cannabis plantation with 600 plants was dismantled while other seizures included approximately 300,000 in cash, 18 kilos of amphetamine, 4.5 kilos of cocaine, firearms and ammunition.
Europol said the “ sting” operation followed a complex investigation initiated by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) who worked on the case together with the Italian Carabinieri (Arma dei Carabinieri) and Financial Corps (Guardia di Finanza), with the support of Europol and Eurojust.
“The investigation uncovered the existence in the Balearic Islands in Spain of an organised crime group linked to the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate,” Europol stated.
“The criminal gang is believed to have played an active role in cocaine and cannabis trafficking in between Spain and Italy, using vehicles equipped with hidden compartments and speedboats to transport the drugs.
“The members of this criminal organisation would routinely use violence, including torture, to further their criminal goals. Some of the arrestees are linked to a number of murders in Italy.
"The investigation also uncovered the illegal possession of firearms by some members of this gang. The criminal profits were reinvested into real estate in Spain to hide their illegal origin, polluting the legal economy.
“Europol supported this investigation by providing tailored expertise and extensive analysis support and facilitating the exchange of information through its secure channels. The exploitation of the critical intelligence carried out by Europol was crucial for the case development.”
Europol revealed that during the live phase of the operation, a mobile office was deployed to Spain to facilitate the real-time exchange of information and crosschecks of the data gathered in the course of the action against Europol’s databases.
The case was opened at Eurojust by the Italian authorities in April 2022. The Agency hosted two coordination meetings to facilitate judicial cooperation and provided support for the coordinated investigative efforts, including the organisation of an action day in Spain.
This investigation was supported by the EU-funded Project ISF4@ON, an Italian-led initiative to tackle mafia-type organised crime groups active in Europe.
It follows last week’s arrest of Johnny Morrissey, identified by US authorities in April as a key aide of the Kinahan Organised Crime Gang, who was held on suspicion of money laundering at his Costa del Sol home.
His wife, the CEO of a Glasgow-based vodka firm called Nero Drinks police are saying was used as a front, was also held although she was released after a court appearance.
Just days later, notorious Kinahan enforcer Gerard Mackin was also arrested in Spain for money-laundering offences.
One of Ireland’s most feared criminals, Mackin (39) was lifted by Spanish police on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Irish authorities.
Mackin has been the focus of a major money laundering investigation by Limerick gardai which has been ongoing for a number of years.
Senior sources say that he is being detained by Spanish police and is expected to be brought to court in the coming days.
It could take a number of weeks at least before his extradition to Ireland is finalised especially if the gangster decides to contest it.
His arrest is not linked to that of Manchester-born Morrissey (62) who allegedly helped crime gangs launder more than €200m in 18 months.
The Civil Guard released footage of the bald-headed Greater Manchester-raised expat sat bare-chested in a pair of tropical shorts in a chair as police searched his home.
Officers were also filmed putting wads of confiscated cash through counting machines and searching cars at a separate address which were allegedly used to move money and drugs in hidden compartments.
Detectives later claimed they had smashed the most important international criminal organisation in Spain specialising in cleaning dirty cash by arresting Morrissey.
They estimated the Irish passport holder, a former Rochdale doorman identified earlier this year by US authorities as a Kinahan enforcer, could have laundered MORE than €200 million in the last 18 months.
A spokesman for the Civil Guard, in the police force’s first comments since the arrests of three people including Morrissey and his wife Nicola on Monday near Marbella, said: “The Civil Guard, through an operation dubbed Whitewall, has smashed the most important international criminal organisation that operated in Spain dedicated to money laundering.
“In a little over a year and a half they could have laundered more than €200 million through the system known as Hawala.”
Monday’s arrests took place after a lengthy probe led by the Civil Guard Unit’s elite Central Operative Unit, responsible for the investigation and prosecution of the most serious forms of crime and organised crime.
Officers from the Garda, Britain’s National Crime Agency, Europe and the powerful US DEA law enforcement agency, took part in the culmination of the police operation.
Detectives said the starting point for the Spanish police investigation had been the seizure at the start of last year of 200 kilograms of cocaine and nearly €500,000 in cash hidden in vehicles with “sophisticated concealment systems.”
One of the alleged members of the criminal organisation smashed by police ran a second-hand car dealership.
As well as the three arrests in Spain, a former Costa del Sol-based Irish expat was held in the UK.