Sixty people have been arrested so far by police in Spain for allegedly being involved with a Mallorca-based criminal organisation which laundered at least €1m ($1.2m) from drug trafficking in a little over a year.
The police say the gang diverted drug money to, primarily, Cuba but also the Dominican Republic and US, where it was used to buy homes, cars and other items.
To get the funds out of Spain, the organisation used international bank transfers via frontman accounts and money transfers through people who were paid a commission.
“In this way, the criminal organisation managed to hide both the criminal origin of the capital and the true identity of the issuers, endowing these financial movements with a final appearance of legitimacy,” Spanish Police said.
To try and cover the gang’s tracks within Spain, the organisation’s leader used the identity of elderly people to set up shell companies, devoid of activity, which allowed gang members to pretend they had jobs in the construction sector.
Arising from what the police describe as a fictitious business network, some detainees have been charged with document falsification by issuing false invoices to mask the illicit money’s true origin.
Two Mallorcan companies are also being investigated for allegedly introducing drug money into legal financial channels by invoicing around €200,000 for jobs not performed.
When police swooped on the gang, they seized €400,000 in cash, many luxury items and accessories, 3kg of cocaine and more than 60kg of cutting substance.
So far, 55 arrests have been made on the island of Mallorca, a mix of suspected main gang members and people who allegedly helped divert illicit funds abroad, and five arrests in Madrid of the suspected collaborators.
Because Spanish Police believe the amount laundered may be considerably higher than the initial estimate of almost €1m, they and the Spanish authorities are working with Cuban and US authorities to obtain more information and act against the foreign ramifications of the gang’s activities.
As the ‘Operation Gunpowder’ investigation is ongoing, new arrests are not ruled out, Spanish police added.