MALAGA – In a joint operation led by the Guardia Civil, one of Europe´s biggest money launderers has been arrested in Malaga, Spain. Two other members of the criminal organisation were also arrested in Spain, and another in the UK.
The Guardia Civil worked on this investigation together with the British National Crime Agency (NCA), the Dutch National Police (Politie), and the Irish Garda (An Garda Síochána). The international activity was co-ordinated by Europol´s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre.
Searches were carried out on 11 properties in the UK and Spain. The main suspect is alleged to have been linked to the Kinahan clan and is believed to have laundered €200 million in just over one year. According to Europol, he was a high-value target for his involvement in several high-profile criminal cases throughout Europe.
Seemingly, in April of this year, he and his associates were identified by the US Department of the Treasury for providing support to the Kinahan clan.
With Spain as their base, they oversaw collecting large amounts of cash from criminal organisations. They would then deliver this to other criminal organisations elsewhere in the world. According to official reports, they transferred the funds using the hawala underground banking system. This is an informal method of transferring money without any physical money moving.
The investigation began at the beginning of 2021. And from then until now, it is believed that over €200 million was laundered in this way.
Key figures in this criminal organisation in Spain, created a brand of vodka which was promoted in nightclubs and restaurants along the Costa del Sol. This shell company was created to disguise the source of their earnings.
Similarly, they founded a company in the UK which was dependent on another company based in Gibraltar. Once again, this was to hide the identity of the administrators of the companies that were being used to launder the illegal profits using the hawala system.
Drugs and cash concealed in vehicles
Furthermore, one of those arrested, ran a car dealership. Consequently, he was responsible for providing vehicles to the criminal organisation. Built into the vehicles, there were concealed compartments which were used to transport large amounts of cash.
At the beginning of the investigation, several actions led to the seizure of 200 kilos of cocaine, and €500,000 in cash which were found hidden this way. The vehicles were owned by the gang.
The case was quickly brought to the attention of Europol due to its international nature. Since then, Europols´ European Financial and Economic Crime Centre has been providing operational and analytical support. Furthermore, they were able to contribute and confirm links with other countries, thereby identifying new connections to extend the operation.
In preparation for the “arrest day”, Europol provided continuous intelligence and support.