Policia Nacional dismantle an illicit cigarettes production factory in Madrid

by Lorraine Williamson
illegal filter for cigarettes

MADRID – Police arrested 5 people in a joint operation with the Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency. Almost 15 million cigarettes, machinery for manufacturing and various materials for tobacco, equipment and packaging were seized. The successful operation took place in an industrial estate in the Madrid town of Alcalá de Henares.

Police also seized 20 tons of acetate which is used in the production of cigarette filters along with machinery able to produce around 600,000 filters per hour.

50 million cigarettes

According to the police, the factory had a production capacity of almost 50 million cigarettes per month and had strong security measures such as frequency inhibitors and video surveillance cameras.

The investigation began back in 2018 because of information provided by the European Anti-Fraud Office. It was noted that a man who was previously related to the illicit manufacture of cigarettes had established a freight transport company that operated throughout Spain.

Bulgarian victims

Thanks to international police cooperation, the investigators, in collaboration with agents from Bulgaria and Germany, found out that a criminal organisation was capturing Bulgarian citizens, with technical knowledge of the tobacco industry. The victims were then transferred to Spain with the aim for them to work clandestinely in this activity.

To avoid suspicion about what was going on in the factory, the criminal organisation could keep the workers locked in the warehouse for weeks at a time. They were kept in unhealthy conditions, without natural light or ventilation. Furthermore, they also subjected them to strict control by using security cameras so that they complied with the imposed schedules.

Security precautions

The investigations were made very difficult as periodically, the criminals relocated and used different factories to continue their production. They took security precautions by using frequency jammers and video surveillance cameras.

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However, the police eventually located the factory in Alcalá de Henares in Madrid. Once they entered the warehouse, they were able to observe that there were other isolated structures with double ceilings and walls. This was with the intention of hiding any activity inside that may be detected.

Investigation phase 1

During the first search, 3 members of the organisation were captured. They were in the process of  dismantling the facilities ready to establish the factory in a different location. Inside, investigators seized 15,280,000 cigarettes, 240 kilograms of cut tobacco, machinery for cutting and conditioning the cut tobacco, machinery for the manufacture of cigarettes, packs, and cartons, as well as material necessary to packaging and storage.

Investigation phase 2

In a second phase of the operation, 2 arrests were made. Police investigators found the location of 3 industrial buildings also linked to the organisation. During these searches, an illegal cigarette filter factory was discovered. This is the first ever detected in Spain. Furthermore, the 20 tons of acetate and related production machinery were seized from here. Also found here were 35 kilos of marijuana.

Arrests

The investigation resulted in the arrest of 5 people for allegedly being members of a criminal organisation, crimes against industrial property, smuggling, and crimes against public health. The investigators remain hopeful of locating other members of the gang.

The estimated the value of the seized tobacco amounted to more than €3 million.

Also read: Well done Policia Nacional in Madrid

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