SPANISH police have stubbed out a fake cigarette gang and seized a total of nearly seven million illegal ‘smokes’.
Guardia Civil discovered the tobacco factory in the town of Borjas Blancas (Cataluña) which was capable of making 9,000 cigarettes per hour.
In total seven people were arrested in raids, including the alleged criminal ringleader at his home in the town of Mataro (Cataluña), his suspected accomplice in the town of La Junquera and two factory workers arrested at the scene, all of them Lithuanian and Polish nationals. Three drivers had earlier been arrested.
Code-named Operation KARUNA, the operation was led by the Guardia Civil and tax office, working together with the Lithuanian Customs Criminal Service, the Polish National Police and French customs with the support of Europol.
Close to one million cigarettes ready to be shipped were seized at the scene, alongside €72,640 in cash.
The illegal factory had the capacity to accommodate 14 workers who would work in shifts to maintain round-the-clock production.
This action day was the culmination of an operation started at the end of last year after Europol shared with the Spanish Guardia Civil intelligence about a transnational organised crime network operating in Cataluña and illegally manufacturing large quantities of tobacco products that were then sold primarily in Spain and France.
Police initially targeted deliveries being made by the group.
French customs seized close to five million cigarettes, transported in a lorry which was entering the France. The driver, a Polish national, was arrested.
In a similar action a lorry driving towards the French border was stopped at the Spanish town of Canfranc and 864 000 cigarettes were seized. The two Lithuanian drivers were arrested.
Earlier this year an illegal cigarette factory in Coin (Malaga) being run by a British gang was shut down.
The ringleader was a Brit fugitive who fled to Spain after escaping from jail. He has since had an extra two years added to his sentence.
Daniel Dobbs, 31, was convicted of trafficking heroin and amphetamines and sentenced to 13-and-a-half years behind bars in January 2014.
On November 2, 2018, Dobbs, from Malton in North Yorkshire and known as ‘Dobbo’ to his friends, was found to be missing from his prison cell in South Yorkshire.
The UK’s National Crime Agency then issued a wanted appeal for information on his whereabouts.
Last year, the NCA tracked him down to Spain. He was living under a false identity. Guardia Civil officers arrested Dobbs during an investigation into the illegal cigarette factory.
The counterfeit cigarettes were made using low quality tobacco in unhygienic conditions.
Officers seized more than three million counterfeit cigarettes; 20 kilos of hashish; 144 kilos of marihuana; three weapons; eight GPS tracking devices and one radio jamming device.
Six people of Ukrainian nationality were found trapped inside the Malaga based factory with serious breathing difficulties after their air supply was cut by police unaware of their existence.
The ‘workers’ were found to have been living in unsanitary conditions when the entrance to the factory was finally located, abandoned to their fate as the arrested members of the criminal organisation failed to tell police they were trapped.