A criminal gang who stole catalytic converters across Spain has been brought down by the Guardia Civil after thefts in Alicante Province.

Five Romanian nationals have been arrested in the Puente Vallecas area of Madrid.

Europol supplied details of the men with two of them, including their leader, being jailed.

The men have been charged with over 150 crimes.

The Guardia Civil in Alicante launched Operation Catabul in January after a spate of catalytic converters being stolen from cars in Novelda and Villena.

Officers discovered they had stumbled on a nationwide crew.

Gang members were assigned to steal the devices as they moved base every week in Spain.

They stayed in remote hotels and stole on the same night from several neighbouring towns.

The crew even had a driver who did not hesitate to break speed limits in a bid to escape the clutches of law enforcement.

Another measure to fool police saw the criminals creating a rota system of leaving Spain to go to other European countries.

Guardia officers raided two addresses in Puente Valleca- an operations base and a unit where the stolen converters were stored.

At the same time, three people were arrested in Alicante Province after returning to a hotel in Ibi with a range of stolen converters.

The Guardia also visited a farm in the Toledo area at Quintanar de la Orden which the gang frequented.

They discovered an illegal dog breeding operation and recovered 12 animals.

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