27 January 2021

Authorities in Spain, in a joint operation with Europol and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, arrested four accused of a money laundering, debt collection and murder-for-hire enterprise with ties to South American drug cartels. The Spanish Civil Guard seized cash, firearms, jewelry and luxury cars from three properties near Madrid.

Europol said that the South American drug cartels used this network of hitmen to collect payments across Spain from other criminal groups buying drugs. In this case seven other individuals and one company were charged.

Investigations started after a tip-off that indicated that large amounts of money were sent to well-established drug cartels in Colombia and Peru two years ago.

Four people with Spanish, Colombian and Venezuelan nationalities have been detained and another eight have been charged. Several suspects had prior charges against them in their home countries, however, their crimes were not specified.

In addition, the authorities investigated 29 companies, froze more than 70 real estate and banking assets and recovered seven firearms and a hundred vehicles. More than 140 telephones and computer equipment have also been seized. It was reported that the organization charged a commission of between 10 and 15 percent to launder money on behalf of Asian groups involved in fraud against public finances and Colombian drug trafficking gangs.

The group used a network of businesses in the import and export and property sectors to launder the money. These businesses headed by front men who were paid to lend their name to the companies.

More than 5,000 kilos of cocaine was seized from a Colombian group based in Netherlands. The cocaine was brought into the country through the port of Antwerp. It was reported that the group also bought property in Toledo and Madrid, worth more than two million euros. The gang used false invoicing in order to hide the origin of the money, which was circulated through various companies and international transfers in order to make it more difficult to trace, the police said.

madridmetropolitan.com, EU-OCS and Europol reported.