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A criminal network led by two Albanians is destroyed
Spanish police, supported by EUROPOL, have dismantled a criminal network involved in drug trafficking and the laundering of large sums of criminal proceeds, the European Union's Agency for Cooperation and Rule of Law, EUROPOL, announced on Thursday.
The investigation had started in 2021, based on a EUROPOL report, which led to the identification of a drug trafficking organization.
The criminal group, according to the announcement, was led by Albanian citizens and was involved in the production and trafficking of marijuana, but also organized large money laundering activities for drug trafficking organizations.
They used the so-called "hawala system" of underground banking, while working closely with Chinese nationals.
The "Hawaladars", of Albanian origin, carried out transfers and hid large sums of money from the sale of drugs. This served to finance new criminal operations, the announcement states.
As stated in the announcement, the criminal network was headed by two Albanian citizens, one was the leader, while the other had the role of lieutenant and accountant. Meanwhile, two Chinese nationals worked for them as coordinators managing a large portfolio of numerous Asian institutions spread across Spain, which served as money laundering schemes for drug trafficking profits.
On 17 July 2023, 27 people were arrested in several locations across Spain, in Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Seville and Valencia. During this operation, luxury watches and jewelry worth over 400,000 euros, high model cars, coded mobile phones and 615,000 euros in cash were seized.
According to investigators, the criminal network has laundered money worth over 65 million euros from drug trafficking activities in less than a year, between May 2020 and March 2021 alone.
Chinese nationals played a major role in these criminal activities by laundering large amounts of criminal assets through legal businesses. These large sums of money would first pass through these legal structures and then be offset elsewhere. In the end, the criminal assets would reach the country of origin and then be invested there. /REL