Spanish law enforcement and tax authorities, with support from Europol and Eurojust, have busted an organized crime group that has purportedly been operating Europe’s largest ‘narco-bank’.
The said criminal network was composed primarily of Syrian nationals and provided financial services, including money laundering services, to criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking in over 20 countries. Since 2020, this criminal network has allegedly laundered over €300 million ($295.63m) annually.
In September 2022, authorities searched 21 locations in Málaga and Toledo, arresting 32 individuals and seizing nearly €3 million ($2.96m) in criminal proceeds. Specifically, the authorities seized cash worth €428,205 ($421,962), 19 cryptocurrency accounts worth €1.5 million ($1.48m), 11 luxury vehicles, 70 kilograms of hashish, 1.2 tonnes of marijuana and a plantation with 995 marijuana plants.
The criminals operated from a local restaurant in Fuenlabrada, where their customers would deposit or collect bulk cash. The criminal organization employed the hawala informal money transfer system as its primary money laundering typology to avoid detection.