Spanish police arrest German money-laundering gang

Police in Spain have arrested three German fugitives suspected of operating a massive money-laundering system for criminal gangs, Europol said on Thursday.

Spanish police arrest German money-laundering gang
The ringleader -– a German citizen of Russian origin -– was one of the three men arrested. Photo: Guardia Civil/Europol

“The suspects are believed to have run a shadow banking system which processed hundreds of millions of euros of criminal transactions isolated from any oversight mechanisms governing the legal financial system,” Europol said.

They “moved around large amounts of cash through this parallel system, helping criminals launder their illegal proceeds and fund their activities, mainly linked to drug trafficking.”

The suspects — on the run from the German authorities since 2021 — were arrested on March 30 in Málaga in southern Spain with the help of the German police, Europol said in a statement.

Their arrest was only made public now due to operational reasons, it added.

The ringleader -– a German citizen of Russian origin -– was one of the three men arrested.

The ringleader would negotiate commissions of up to five percent for every million euros managed, with profits estimated at more than €250,000 ($265,000) per day, Europol said.

In a number of different raids in the Málaga province, police seized substantial amounts of cash, money-counting machines, encrypted mobile phones and fake IDs, it said.

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Spain seizes first underwater drug smuggling drones

Spanish police said on Monday they had seized six underwater drones capable of transporting large quantities of drugs from Morocco to Spain and broken up a gang suspected of manufacturing them.

Spain seizes first underwater drug smuggling drones

Officers seized six of the so-called “drone submarines” and arrested eight people in raids carried out in Barcelona and the southern provinces of Málaga and Cádiz, a police statement said.

Police said it was the first time they had seized such devices, which are officially known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

They believe the gang made underwater drones “capable of bearing big loads” for use by other criminal organisations.

“These devices could allow drug traffickers to transport large quantities of narcotics remotely across the Strait of Gibraltar,” the statement said.

The drones had up to 12 motors each and a range of 30 kilometres (18 miles).

That is easily enough to manage an underwater crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco which measures just 15 kilometres (nine miles).

Three of the drones were due to be delivered to a French drug ring to “transport significant amounts of cocaine”, the statement said.

The gang also built false bottoms into vehicles to allow gangs to smuggle drugs, as well as “unmanned semi-submersible vessels” that could carry up to 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) of product.

Their customers included criminal gangs in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, police said.

Spain’s physical proximity to Morocco, a major hashish producer, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it a key entry point for drugs bound for Europe.