3 Apr, 2022 @ 14:15
1 min read

€3 million fake saffron gang busted in Spain’s Malaga, Alicante and Barcelona

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POLICE have arrested 11 people in  Malaga, Barcelona, Alicante, Granada and Almeria for a €3million scam that passed off gardenia extract as saffron, making 800% profits along the way.

In total three companies are being investigated for importing the cheap extract from China, where it is used as a dye.

The criminals realised that scientific tests used to detect fake saffron relied on identifying a single type of molecule that was the only one identifiable in gardenia that is not present in saffron.

Saffron Bust Cash On Bed
Police discovered large sums of cash. Photo Guardia Civil

So they developed a process to remove that one molecule before selling the relatively cheap extract as pricy saffron.

Gardena can be harvested intensively using machines, whereas saffron – which is made from the stamens of a type of crocus – have to be painstakingly hand-picked. This means the costs of harvesting are about 10 times higher for saffron.

Gardenia is not considered a foodstuff in Spain, so the extract was imported with no health checks made. 

In Spain, saffron was introduced by the Arabs between the 8th and 10th centuries. It is a high-value crop, with production centred mainly on the Castilian-La Mancha plateau. The spice grown in Spain is considered to be of particularly high quality.

In the police operation more than 2,000 kg of fake saffron valued at more than €750,000 were seized and withdrawn from the market.

Police estimate that €3 million in profits were made by the gang.


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