The Guardia Civil seized more than 3.5 million packets of contraband tobacco worth 20,000,000 euros from factories across Spain
Police officers from the Guardia Civil collaborated with Europol in operation FATACA. The joint investigation dismantled a criminal tobacco smuggling organization that operated from three factories in Spain.
Agents arrested a total of 27 people in the raids that saw 3,500,000 tobacco packs seized, without tax seals, valued at 17,500,000 euros and 10,000 kilos of tobacco leaves, with a value of more than 20,000,000 euros.
In the operation, 24 raids and searches were made at homes, industrial buildings and shops across the communities of Seville, Málaga, Córdoba, Madrid, Albacete, Valencia, Zaragoza and La Rioja).
The operation began at the end of 2021 when the ‘Turkeys’ operation was uncovered. This is where a clandestine tobacco factory was dismantled that was operating from inside a chicken factory in the town of Los Corrales (Seville).
As a result of this intervention, the agents detected yet another criminal organization that moved large quantities of contraband tobacco throughout Spain and other neighbouring countries.
The Guardia Civil requested the collaboration of Europol to coordinate the operation to dismantle the gang. It was soon discovered that the criminal organization had two clearly differentiated modus operandi, which allowed its leaders to distribute and supply packets of tobacco without tax seals across Europe.
Containers were used to transport the illegal contraband to various national, and even in some cases, international seaports.
These tobacco products were imported without declaring said merchandise before the customs authorities and therefore evaded the payment of the corresponding taxes (IIEE and VAT).
The second and main way was the clandestine manufacture of tobacco, counting for this up to at least 3 factories installed in Logroño, Valencia and Seville, which allowed the organization to supply packets of tobacco to all the provinces of Spain, and export part of the production to other European countries.
The organization carried out the different production tasks in the factories and used people of Ukrainian nationality. These refugees had moved to Spain under international protection due to the war in their country and lived on the premises.
Conditions were cramped in the prefabricated modules, and they were not allowed to leave the facilities so as not to be detected. The workers toiled, working at least 12-hour shifts.
The leaders of the organization laundered large amounts of money from tobacco smuggling. This allowed them to maintain a life of luxury, residing in luxury estates in the province of Sevillian and in urbanizations in the town of Marbella.
As the investigation entered its final phase, investigators discovered how the organization was diversifying its criminal activity by expanding its facilities in large marijuana plantations.
The three clandestine tobacco factories were located in the towns of Alfaro (La Rioja), Los Corrales (Seville) and Enquera (Valencia). These facilities were found to be equipped with high-tech machinery that used advanced technology.
The value of these factories alone was estimated at around 3,000,000 euros. In addition, machinery was seized in Estepa (Seville), with which the organization had planned to set up a fourth factory in Osuna (Seville), to further increase production and therefore generate more profits.
With the three factories that the organization had, it was possible to produce 540,000 packs a day.
The money laundering bust allowed the seizure of 7 properties and 25 vehicles, as well as the blocking of bank accounts owned by those investigated. The operation has been carried out by the Economic Crime Team of the Civil Guard Command of Seville and is being directed by the Court of First Instance and Instruction number 2 of Osuna (Seville).