Six arrested in avocado farm money laundering family business

by Lorraine Williamson
avocado farms used for money laundering

As part of operation PERSEA, the Guardia Civil Guard, has arrested 6 people belonging to a criminal group, formed by a family. The gang were dedicated to laundering more than €4 million obtained from cocaine trafficking by buying avocado farms and works of art.

Operation PERSEA began in September last year. At this time, police detected an increase in assets within the family members of a person who had been previously convicted of drug trafficking.

Money laundering by simulating avocado sales

During the investigations, police determined that the avocado farms bought by the suspects only had small trees planted. Therefore, their fruit did not have the size or quality necessary for sale.

Those investigated allegedly bought the harvest from other owners using illicit drug money. They later sold them to a cooperative, of which they had previously become partners. In this way, the money was being laundered with the simulation of the sale of avocados.

At the same time, the brother of the main suspect, created “front” companies to acquire real estate with illicit cash.

Seized

According to the Guardia Civil, during the search of their homes, in Seville and Algeciras, they found works of art (paintings, engravings, sculptures and ceramics), gold watches, a gold ingot valued at about €56,000 and cash.

The works of art also served to launder illicit money. The seized works are found between the 17th century and the present day. Furthermore, they are under judicial disposition and are awaiting appraisal.

cogesa expats

A total of 13 searches were carried out in the towns of Algeciras, Los Barrios, Seville, and Marbella. All together, €555,270 and 200,000 Swiss francs have been seized. 52 properties valued at 1,743,646.52 have been preventively blocked. And 380,000 m2 of agricultural production dedicated to avocado valued at €1,940,000 have been judicially intervened. In addition, 17 vehicles valued at €332,697.29 have been intervened and 35 current accounts have been blocked.

Avocado farms used

From the analysis of the bank accounts, the Guardia Civil detected a large investment of money that one of its members had made with money from drug trafficking in the cultivation of avocado. Subsequently, more investments were discovered in hectares of avocado farms under the control of those involved.

In this way, those involved banked a large amount of money without raising suspicions, since all the investment made with money from drug trafficking in avocado production was going to multiply in a few years in profits of legal money.

Furthermore, the police stated that this strategy had already been used by drug traffickers in Mexico.

With this operation, a business network has been exposed, from the textile, agricultural and real estate sectors that has been able to introduce and transform, in the last 10 years, a total of €4,154,659.2 of cash.

Also read: Police arrest 18 paedophiles

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