FOURTEEN boiler rooms have been shut down across Spain in the biggest international anti-fraud operation ever staged, as well as two in the United Kingdom.
The operation saw 84 gang members arrested in Spain, including many in Marbella, for conning millions of euros out of victims, and they are expected to be extradited this week.
So far around 13 of those arrested in Spain have been bailed – one for 10,000 euros – while 11 of the ‘more senior staff’ are being held in prison.
One of the apparent leaders, named as Alexander Martin, has also been refused bail. The rest are facing court hearings this weekend.
Detectives say the two-year investigation, codenamed Operation Rico, aims to “decimate” boiler room fraud in Europe- so called because of the cramped conditions the fraudsters operate out of.
Most of those arrested were held on suspicion of money laundering and fraud offences, specifically where investors are tricked into buying shares that are either worthless or non-existent.
In the UK alone there are 850 confirmed victims, but detectives estimate the overall figure is likely to be ‘multi-thousands’.
Most of the boiler rooms are believed to be based in Bercelona, Madrid and Marbella- where the raids involved 300 police officers, 40 of them from the UK.
Further arrests have been made in the UK, Serbia and the United States as part of the joint operation by the City of London Police and the Spanish Policia Nacional.
Details of this week’s international crackdown can be reported for the first time as a ban on publication was lifted today by a Spanish judge.
Speaking in Barcelona on Tuesday, City of London Police Commander Steve Head, said: “It is our most important investigation ever, targeting people we believe are at the top of an organised crime network that has been facilitating boiler rooms across Europe and which is suspected of being responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud.”
He added that the network was believed to have had more than 1,000 victims, and that the arrests highlighted how law enforcement can work globally to stop criminals sheltering abroad.
An Aston Martin and a Ferrari were among the cars seized by police, as well as various watches and more than €600,000 (£500,000) in cash.
One of the most colourful cars seized was a Ford Mustang in Marbella.