Spanish police have smashed a major money laundering network operating in Andalucía and Cantabria
In a significant breakthrough, the Guardia Civil has successfully concluded operation Praesleón, resulting in the apprehension of 34 individuals involved in money laundering associated with drug trafficking. This extensive operation unfolded over the past two years across the provinces of Málaga, Cádiz, Almería, and Cantabria.
The majority of those taken into custody were affiliated with two interconnected drug trafficking groups operating in Campo de Gibraltar, intricately protected by the Castañas clan.
Notably, six legal entities and three commercial companies are also under investigation. The seized assets, valued at over 14 million euros, include 40 properties, 42 vehicles, 54 bank accounts, three boats, two gyms, a beauty centre, a clothing store, 40 pieces of jewellery and watches, and 190,000 euros in cash, along with weapons and various equipment.
The meticulously executed 23 searches unfolded in the towns of La Línea de la Concepción and Algeciras in Cádiz, Marbella in Málaga, Almería, and Torrelavega in Cantabria.
Investigators successfully identified all members constituting the money laundering structures, uncovering individuals who acted as fronts. These trusted associates facilitated the deposition of fictitious ownership, employing seemingly legitimate business activities and opaque commercial entities to conceal the illicit origins of the funds.
The operation delved into nearly 100 instances of money purification, transformation, and integration from drug trafficking into the legal financial and commercial systems. Money laundering tactics included real estate investments, vehicle and boat acquisitions, and the purchase of winning lottery tickets from third parties.
The illicitly obtained funds were subsequently funneled into bank accounts to engage in lucrative financial products or to finance various businesses and economic activities such as gyms, taxi licenses, beauty and fashion salons, and maritime fishing enterprises.
Directed by the Special Anti-Drug Section of the Algeciras Area Prosecutor’s Office, the operation was executed by the Guardia Civil Commands of Malaga, Algeciras, Almería, and Cantabria. Local Judicial Police Units played a central role, with additional support provided by the Rapid Action Group (GAR).
Cantabria is an autonomous community and province in northern Spain. It is situated on the Bay of Biscay and is bordered by the provinces of Asturias, Castile and León, and the Basque Country. The capital of Cantabria is Santander.
According to the U.S. Department of State, Spain is considered a trans-shipment point for cross-border illicit flows of drugs entering Europe from North Africa and Central and South America. The criminalization of money laundering was added to the penal code in 1988 when laundering the proceeds from narcotics trafficking was made a criminal offense.