Spanish authorities dismantle major tobacco smuggling network

by Lorraine Williamson


MALAGA – The Spanish National Police, in collaboration with the Guardia Civil and Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency, have dismantled a major tobacco smuggling network.

The operation resulted in the seizure of over 12 tons of materials, including more than 3,000 kilograms of contraband tobacco and over 9,000 kilograms of precursor materials used for the illicit production of tobacco products. Authorities also dismantled five tobacco shredding factories and two tobacco leaf warehouses in the provinces of Málaga and Sevilla.

Investigation and operations

The investigation began in late 2023 when authorities identified an industrial warehouse in Mollina, Málaga, being used for concealing, storing, preparing, and manufacturing contraband tobacco. This tobacco was then distributed across the nation. Through extensive investigations, police identified several members of the organization and uncovered numerous locations, warehouses, and homes involved in various stages of the illegal cigarette production process.

Operational phases and seizures

In early April, the first phase of the operation was launched, resulting in the arrest of eleven individuals. Authorities dismantled an illegal tobacco shredding factory in Mollina, which housed a production line equipped with machinery for processing and shredding tobacco leaves, packaging machines, and other necessary materials. During this raid, they seized 1,209 kilograms of shredded tobacco and 2,880 kilograms of tobacco leaf strips, along with three shredding machines and other precursor materials.

Tobacco smuggling

The second phase of the operation occurred at the end of April, leading to the arrest of thirteen more individuals and the execution of five searches—three in Sevilla and two in Málaga. Additionally, three inspections of industrial warehouses—two in Sevilla and one in Málaga—led to the dismantling of four tobacco shredding factories and two tobacco leaf warehouses. Authorities seized over 6,490 kilograms of tobacco leaf strips and 2,500 kilograms of shredded tobacco.

Also read: Record revenue for the Spanish tax authorities from tobacco taxes

Weapons and additional seizures

During the operation, police also seized five firearms, including a submachine gun, a rifle with a telescopic sight, a pistol with a silencer, a stolen shotgun, and a blank pistol. Additionally, three airguns, five bladed weapons (including four machetes and a katana), €75,175 in cash, twelve vehicles (including several high-end models and two trucks), and machinery for tobacco processing were confiscated.

Illegal distribution and financial impact

Investigators revealed that the contraband tobacco was sold through illicit distribution channels. The estimated financial loss due to the smuggling operation exceeds €2,000,000.

The successful dismantling of this network marks a significant achievement for Spanish law enforcement, showcasing their commitment to combating organized crime and illegal trade operations across the country.

Also read: Guardia Civil seizes nearly 33 tons of tobacco and 6 million counterfeit cigarettes

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