Europe’s largest gang for printing counterfeit banknotes has been dismantled in Spain. The purchase of an electric bicycle in Barcelona led the police directly to the gang, whose main suspect was already known to the Spanish police.
The Policía Nacional cooperated with the Mossos d’Escuadra and Europol during this operation. Police forces raided homes, sheds and a caravan in the Spanish provinces of Alicante, Barcelona, Malaga, Teruel and Valencia at the same time over the past week.
Twelve suspects arrested in simultaneous raids in five Spanish provinces
Twelve people were arrested in the various provinces during the raids by the police services. According to preliminary estimates by the court of Sant Feliu de Llobregat, this criminal gang is responsible for the production of 8 million counterfeit €500 banknotes. The court accuses the twelve suspects of producing counterfeit money and membership in a criminal organisation.
Investigation into criminal organisation has been ongoing since 2021
The Catalan court already started investigating this gang in mid-2021 when various counterfeit €500 notes were intercepted by investigators from the Banco de España. The prime suspect, a 50-year-old man who specialises in graphic art, was already in the picture in 2009 for similar criminal offences.
When an electric bicycle was recently bought in a shop in Barcelona and paid for with two (counterfeit) €500 bills, it quickly became clear who was behind this organisation. At the same time, a backpack containing €4 million worth of €500 notes was found just outside Barcelona. These turned out to be fake. The intercepted notes matched those the prime suspect had produced in 2009.
Counterfeit notes used to finance other criminal activities
The twelve arrested suspects have all been remanded in custody pending trial. Most of the members were employed in the printery where they produced the money. Other organisers had previously met in Picassent prison while serving sentences for other crimes. The production of these 8 million notes took around three months. The money was used by the leaders of the organisation to fund other criminal activities such as buying drugs.