The Guardia Civil seizes more than 3 and a half million packets of contraband tobacco

The Guardia Civil with the collaboration of Europol, in the so-called FATACA operation, has dismantled a criminal tobacco smuggling organisation where three tobacco factories have been dismantled and in which 27 people have been arrested and 3,500,000 tobacco packs seized without tax seal valued at 17,500,000 euro and 10,000 kilos of tobacco leaves, with a value of more than 20,000,000 euro.

In the operation, 24 entries and searches were made at homes, industrial buildings and shops in the towns of Seville, Málaga, Córdoba, Madrid, Albacete, Valencia, Zaragoza and La Rioja.

The operation began at the end of 2021, when a clandestine tobacco factory was dismantled inside a chicken shed in the town of Los Corrales (Seville).

As a result of this intervention, the agents detected another criminal organisation that moved large quantities of contraband tobacco, with a very high level of activity throughout the national territory and in other neighbouring countries. For this reason, the Guardia Civil requested the collaboration of Europol to coordinate the operation.

Continuing with the investigations, it was revealed that the criminal organisation had two clearly differentiated modus operandi, which allowed its leaders to distribute and supply packets of tobacco without tax seal to the entire national territory and to other European countries.

On the one hand, they imported these packs through containers, introduced by various national and even international seaports. These tobacco products were introduced without declaring said merchandise before the customs authorities and therefore evaded the payment of the corresponding taxes (IIEE and VAT).

The second and main way was the clandestine manufacture of tobacco, counting for this up to at least 3 factories installed in Logroño, Valencia and Seville, which allowed the organisation to supply packets of tobacco to all the provinces of Spain, and take out part of the production to other European countries.

Likewise, the organisation to carry out the different production tasks in the factories, used people of Ukrainian nationality, who had moved to Spain in an irregular situation or under international protection due to the declared war in their country, who lived in said facilities, crammed into prefabricated modules, and without leaving the facilities so as not to be detected, doing long work days.

Likewise, the leaders of the organisation laundered large amounts of money reported for tobacco smuggling, which would allow them to maintain a life of luxury, residing in estates with all kinds of luxuries in the Sevillian province and in urbanisations in the town of Marbella.

In the last stage of the operation, the investigators detected how this organization was diversifying its criminal activity, expanding its facilities in large marijuana plantations.

The three clandestine tobacco factories were located in the towns of Alfaro (La Rioja), Los Corrales (Seville) and Enquera (Valencia). These factories had machinery with advanced technology. The value of these factories would be around 3,000,000 euro. In addition, machinery was seized in Estepa (Seville), with which the organisation planned to set up a fourth factory in Osuna (Seville), to further increase production and therefore profits. With the three factories that the organisation had, it could produce 540,000 packs a day.

On the other hand, the investigation for money laundering has allowed the seizure of 7 properties and 25 vehicles, as well as the blocking of bank accounts owned by those investigated.