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CRIME

Spain smashes ring exploiting Ukrainians fleeing war

Spanish police said Sunday they had broken up a gang that operated three illegal tobacco factories employing Ukrainians who fled to escape Russia's invasion and were kept in "crammed" housing.

Spain smashes ring exploiting Ukrainians fleeing war
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP

The operation is believed to have smuggled “large quantities” of tobacco transformed into counterfeit cigarettes that were sold across Spain and neighbouring countries, the Guardia Civil police force said in a statement.

The factories, located in the northern wine-producing region of La Rioja, Seville in the south and Valencia in the east, used  “advanced technology” and could produce 540,000 cigarette packs per day, it added.

Police said the ring employed Ukrainians who had moved to Spain illegally or had entered the country legally seeking refuge from the war.

The Ukrainians lived in the factories “crammed into prefabricated modules, and without leaving the facilities so as not to be detected, working long hours,” the statement said.

The gang leaders  “laundered large amounts of money” and lived “a life of luxury” in the upmarket tourist resort of Marbella on the Costa del Sol, the statement said.

Police arrested 27 people in raids across Spain as part of their investigation which was carried out with the help of European policing agency Europol.

They also seized 10 tonnes of tobacco leaves and 3.5 million cigarette packs worth a total of 37.5 million ($40 million).

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CRIME

Spain church attack suspect to undergo psychiatric testing

The Moroccan suspect held in connection with a machete attack on two Spanish churches, killing a verger and badly injuring a priest, will undergo psychiatric testing, a court said Tuesday.

Spain church attack suspect to undergo psychiatric testing

The case is being handled by the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s top criminal court, with the judge in charge asking that “two doctors conduct a psychiatric evaluation of the suspect”.

The suspect, 25-year-old Yassine Kanjaa, was arrested at the scene after the attacks on two churches in the southern town of Algeciras last week.

The Audiencia Nacional said the psychiatric evaluation, which will be carried out by doctors from the court’s forensic department, would provide “information about the legal responsibility” of the “presumed jihadist”.

Prosecutors have opened a terror probe and, on Monday, the court remanded the suspect in custody without bail on murder and terrorism charges.

During the deadly incident on January 26th, the suspect entered San Isidro church and attacked its priest with a machete, leaving him seriously wounded before entering Nuestra Señora de La Palma.

There he attacked the verger and chased him out of the church where he killed him.

‘Targeted priests and infidels’

Court details released on Monday said the attacker had also injured three other people, including another Moroccan man whom he “considered an infidel” because he had renounced his faith.

It said Kanjaa’s actions could be “qualified as a jihadist attack directed at both priests who profess the Catholic faith, and Muslims who, according to the suspect, don’t follow the Koran”.

The court said the suspect fits the profile of a “self-indoctrinated terrorist who acts individually without direct ties to a specific terror group but operates in the name of jihadist philosophy”.

Last week, Spain’s left-wing government refused to rule out mental illness and the police have described him as “unstable”.

The court said Kanjaa became indoctrinated “rapidly” within the space of up to six weeks, citing witnesses as telling police that just before that, he “was drinking alcohol and smoking hashish”. Then he suddenly started listening “regularly to the Koran on his mobile phone”.

One of Kanjaa’s neighbours told AFP something similar on Friday, saying he had changed radically six weeks ago, growing a beard and wearing a long robe.

Officials have said Kanjaa was served with a deportation order last June but had no prior convictions and was not under surveillance.

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