Spain smashes ring impersonating Vatican bank

Spanish police said on Friday that they had smashed a ring that allegedly operated a fake branch of the Vatican Bank and swindled people around the world.

Spain smashes ring impersonating Vatican bank
Police seized this luxury car bearing a fake coat of arms. Photo: Police hand out/AFP
Officers arrested three Spaniards and a Colombian suspected of operating the phoney branch in Fuengirola near the posh sea resort of Marbella, police said in a statement.
The group “usurped the identity, symbols and image” of the bank, which does not have an office outside Vatican City, to obtain “huge profits” from contracts signed with “a lot of companies around the world” to develop “commercial relations and provide financial advice,” it said.
The group's office in Fuengirola features the shield of the Vatican on its glass door and is decorated with statue depicting the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus in her arms.
Another showed a black luxury vehicle decorated with the same Vatican shield on one of its doors.
Police said they were still figuring how many people around the world fell victim and how much money the gang had raised.
Officers seized a yacht, several luxury cars and silver ingots as well as 5,000 euros ($6,225) in cash as part of the operation.
Among those arrested is the suspected ringleader, a 30-year-old Spanish man who claimed to be a member of the Vatican's diplomatic corps and had fake documents that identified him as a Cuban ambassador.
The four suspects face charges of fraud, money laundering, impersonation and criminal association.
The ring had even printed out official-looking car stickers for their vehicles (see below). 


Spain’s Civil Guard police officers allowed to have visible tattoos

Spain on Monday relaxed its policy banning officers from the country's oldest police force, the Guardia Civil, from exhibiting tattoos.

civil guard spain gun
The increasing popularity of tattoos has led police forces around the world to regulate their use. Photo: Rafa Rivas/AFP

Officers will now be allowed to display tattoos anywhere on their bodies “as long as they do not contain expressions that violate constitutional values or harm the discipline or image of the force,” the interior minister said in a statement.

“For the first time visible tattoos will be allowed on uniformed officers,” it added.

On the other hand, the decree prohibits hoop earrings, spikes, plugs and other inserts when they are visible in uniform, “except regular earrings, for both male and female personnel”.

The Guardia Civil mainly patrols and investigates crimes in rural areas, while Spain’s National Police focuses on urban areas.

Last year Spain’s leftist government appointed a woman to head the force for the first time in its 177-year history.

The increasing popularity of tattoos has led police forces around the world to regulate their use.

Los Angeles police are required to ensure that tattoos are not visible to the public while on-duty, while France’s Gendarmes police force also requires that they be covered.