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NEWS: ‘Narco bank’ run by massive international crime gang out of Spain and Germany is smashed; €4M and 23 luxury cars seized in raid on underground bank

By AMLi Correspondents

SPANISH and German police have broken up what has been described as a European “narco bank,” run by a “massive international organised crime ring.”

The crime network running the “bank” provided financial services to various criminal organisations mainly linked to drug trafficking.

The German city of Hamburg appeared to be the centre of the underground bank which had tentacles throughout Spain.

The operation – carried out in May but only announced today (Monday) – led to the arrests of 44 suspects from China, Spain, Morocco and Germany.

According to police the criminal network moved large amounts of cash via a sophisticated underground banking system. “Organised crime groups could make payments, receive funds and even have their proceeds laundered by this internationally structured financial network,” Europol said in a statement. 

The operation led to the seizure of more than €4M, 23 luxury cars and jewellery and involved issuing 19 international arrest warrants.

Photo credit: Europol

Police revealed that gang members involved in the network picked up physical cash directly from criminal organisations.

These large amounts of cash were transported in vehicles equipped with hidden compartments and fed into a common cash pool, which was dispersed across various international locations.

Image Credit: Europol

“Other criminal organisations could use these funds to finance their criminal activities or to provide cross-border payments,” officers said.

The illicit financing system was largely based on money generated in the illegal drug trade, with one part of the organisation sending up to 200 kilos of hashish and cannabis a week from Spain to other parts of Europe.

“A massive international organised crime ring has been broken up in a joint operation between the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and the German Criminal Bureau (Landeskriminalamt) of Hamburg,” said Europol.

During an action day in May 2022, law enforcement conducted 50 house searches across Spain and the German city of Hamburg, leading to the 44 arrests.

Police also seized 98 kilograms of cannabis – with an additional 123 kilograms seized a few days later – contributing to a total of 650 kilograms connected to this case. Furthermore, 51 kilograms of hashish were confiscated during the action.

Photo credit: Europol

Europol coordinated the collaboration between the countries and deployed three specialists on the spot during the action day.

The agency’s European Financial and Economic Centre provided operational expertise, as well as analytical and operational support.

“This investigation was carried out within the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). More specifically, it falls under the operational action plan “Criminal Finances, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery” which aims to combat and disrupt criminal networks and criminal individuals who are involved in criminal finances and money laundering,” the agency added.

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