They also identified 1,667 clients who paid the organisation between €1,000 and €4,500 to obtain false diplomas and certificates.
According to a report published by the police force on Friday, the criminal organisation, which was based in Barcelona, falsified the Cervantes Institute’s oral and written tests in order to obtain language and citizenship certificates.
These were then sold to foreign residents who needed the diplomas in order to apply for citizenship.
Foreign residents must pass a language test (DELE) and a cultural knowledge multiple-choice exam (CCSE), in order to obtain Spanish nationality.
The arrests were carried out in an operation coordinated by Europol that took place simultaneously in Spain and the United Kingdom with the collaboration of the Spanish National Police and the British National Crime Agency (NCA).
One important figure in the network was arrested in the United Kingdom, while the rest – including the leader of the organisation – were detained in the province of Barcelona.
The police found €50,000 in cash and several laptops containing hundreds of false diplomas.
The forgeries were made in an academy that offered tests to obtain the DELE and CCSE. The results of these were falsified for foreign citizens who lacked the necessary knowledge to pass.
Most of the clients were from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Of the 1,667 clients that were identified, about 1,380 would allegedly have obtained the DELE fraudulently.
The national police has been collaborating with the Cervantes Institute since 2018 on various different fraud cases relating to the DELE and CCSE certificates, which are issued officially by the institute under the mandate of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice.
In November 2020, the national police carried out an extensive operation in different provinces and arrested 25 people for impersonating legal foreign residents during their exams to obtain the DELE language certificate.