International drugs & money laundering bust
The Guardia Civil’s recent operation ‘Deambular VI’, has led to the arrest of 12 people in the Canary Islands and one in Italy. All of them alleged perpetrators of crimes including money laundering, drug trafficking, membership of a criminal organisation and falsification of documents. The majority of those detained and being investigated are of Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Colombian nationality.
During the Las Palmas operation, 10 residences and 2 boats were searched from which the agents gathered a large amount of documentation, both physical and computer hardware, related to the crimes being investigated, as well as more than half a million euros in cash.
Throughout the investigation, which began in 2014, evidence has been collected about how this organization, dedicated to the movement of so-called ‘black money’ in cash, operated closely with other international groups of drug traffickers, networks with high capacity of movement and infrastructure in South America and European countries, along with evidence of high capacity narcotics distribution using various means.
From the data obtained, it has been allegedly shown that the network could have moved more than 398 kilos of cocaine into Europe. Valuable information has also been obtained regarding the entry of drugs into various European countries via airplanes, sailboats, containers, human mules, etc.
On the economic side, the Lithuanians and Ukrainians involved, who were settled in Las Palmas, had a high standard of living, owning homes, yachts, luxury vehicles, etc., with bank accounts and associations in many different European countries.
The organisation responsible for collecting cash, as a result of narcotics sales in Europe, also had the necessary financial infrastructure to be able to move large amounts of money throughout Europe, and the East, as well as other locations.
Invesigators say there were able to prove beyond any doubt the existence of a network that operated in Spain and Colombia, composed of about 140 people, who worked for the organisation through a method known as “pitufeo”, whereby large amounts, potentially even millions of Euros, are divided into much smaller amounts, of say less than 1000 euros, and tansported in the form of cheques, travelers cheques, prepaid cards and other forms of payment to be used for a multitude of either investments, payments for services or direct gambling and bets at casinos so as to simply look like the legitimate profits of seeminly normal functioning businesses and small enterprises.
To do this, a group of front-men or even local business owners, often collaborate so that the amounts being delivered appear as regular income and thereby become usable for other more legal activities, such as the purchase of assets or property. This particular group appeared to have been sending frequent amounts of cash to recipients, that the gang network indicated to them, using money transfer companies.