Counterfeit goods organisation disrupted with almost 250,000 items seized

by Lorraine Williamson
fake goods

Policia have made 39 arrests in Madrid (14), Sevilla (4), Girona (15), Málaga (3), and Tenerife (3) with simultaneous raids on 13 residences and 22 inspections in warehouses and public establishments across Spain.

In a joint operation, the Policia Nacional, in collaboration with officials from the Tax Agency’s Customs Surveillance, have dismantled a criminal organisation dedicated to the import and sale of counterfeit products, resulting in the seizure of almost 250,000 items. The operation led to the arrest of 39 individuals in different Spanish cities, including Madrid (14), Sevilla (4), Girona (15), Málaga (3), and Tenerife (3). Additionally, 13 simultaneous raids were conducted on residential properties, and 22 inspections took place at warehouses and public establishments across the country. The organisation constantly changed its modus operandi, payment methods, and distribution channels to avoid detection.

Importing and selling counterfeit products

The investigation began when the authorities became aware of a hierarchical criminal organisation composed mainly of Senegalese citizens, operating within Spain with a well-structured setup. The organisation was allegedly engaged in importing and selling counterfeit products while concealing the illegal origin of profits to integrate them into the legal economic and financial systems of Spain and other countries.

The counterfeit goods were produced or imported and included various items such as clothing, footwear, jewellery, and leather goods. In some instances, the articles were combined with counterfeit labels, stickers, or distinctive serigraphy of certain registered trademarks, thereby infringing on the intellectual property rights of those brands.

Pyramidal structure, dynamic operations, and clear division of tasks

As the investigation progressed, the authorities confirmed that the suspects had been operating since at least 2016. Furthermore, the organisation’s structure was pyramidal, dynamic in adapting to changing circumstances, and clearly divided tasks among its members. At the top of the hierarchy was a woman responsible for leadership and management. She and third parties frequently travelled to supplier countries to import counterfeit products and were also in charge of handling the majority of the profits.

Once the counterfeit goods entered Spain, they were distributed throughout the country using logistical points or courier companies. This task was carried out by members of the organisation known as “relevant sellers” or “mailboxes.” In an intermediate level between these sellers and the leaders, there was a distribution chief who received instructions from the leaders to distribute the goods among the relevant sellers.

At the bottom of the criminal network were the base sellers, who were the final recipients of the counterfeit goods. Many of them were irregular African immigrants with limited financial resources, who directly sold the products through the so-called “top manta” street vending. These street sellers also collected part of the profits to deliver to higher levels of the organisation.

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Money laundering

One of the methods used to transfer money was through bank transfers or direct deposits into accounts. This was done from multiple locations across Spain and then reintegrated into the localities where the leaders of the criminal network resided. Another method involved sending money via courier companies or postal services (with a weight of less than one kilogram) to the addresses of the network’s bosses. The main avenues used for laundering illicit gains were the creation of seemingly legitimate businesses, such as restaurants, and sending money back to their home country (Senegal) either through “mules” or via courier services.

Dynamic modus operandi

To enhance their security measures, the organisation frequently changed its modus operandi. They altered the routes used to bring in counterfeit merchandise (shifting from entering the European Union via the UK to routes passing through China, Germany, and Spain). They also adapted their payment methods and distribution channels. This dynamism not only complicated police efforts but also demonstrated the sophistication of the criminal network.

Operation focused on higher and intermediate members of the organization

The operation specifically targeted members occupying higher and intermediate levels of the criminal organisation. During the course of the investigation, it was found that the economic capacity of the suspects did not align with their declared income or work history. Most of them did not receive regular salaries, and those who did had income inconsistent with the money flow recorded in their accounts.


In conclusion, 39 individuals have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the crimes of being part of a criminal organisation, infringement of industrial property rights, money laundering, smuggling, and violations of immigration laws. Among them, 14 were arrested in Madrid, 4 in Sevilla, 15 in the municipality of Lloret de Mar in Girona, 3 in Málaga (including one in Marbella), and 3 in Tenerife. Furthermore, the authorities carried out 13 residential raids on the leaders and relevant distributors of the organisation, as well as 22 inspections at warehouses and public establishments. In Madrid, specifically, 6 raids and 7 inspections were conducted in the Carabanchel and Lavapiés areas. In Girona province, 3 raids and 10 inspections took place in Lloret de Mar. In Sevilla, there were 2 residential raids and 2 inspections, while in Málaga, one raid and two inspections occurred. Lastly, one raid was carried out in the municipality of Arona, Tenerife, and one inspection took place at an establishment that served as the nerve centre of the organisation on the island.

During the raids, the authorities seized 242,501 counterfeit items, including football kits, luxury handbags, footwear, and jewellery, which violated the intellectual property rights of prestigious brands. Additionally, they confiscated €86,255 in cash, numerous electronic devices (mobile phones, tablets, and laptops), and a significant amount of documentation related to the investigated activities.

Also read: “Washwash” scammer arrested

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