BREAKING NEWS: Madrid: Spanish Police & FBI Seize £22m (cash) In ‘Drug Gang’ Bust

19 Jul

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Video: Spanish Police Seize £22m In Cash 

Spanish Cops Seize £22m In 'Drug Gang' Bust

Spanish Cops Seize £22m In ‘Drug Gang’ Bust

A record 25m euros (£22m) in cash has been seized by Spanish police during a simultaneous raid in Spain and the US over a money-laundering scam.

“It is the largest single amount of cash seized in Europe from drug trafficking,” police boss Jose Luis Olivera said at a news conference.

Seventeen people were held in and around Madrid and four in Miami, Florida, in an operation conducted with the FBI.

One of those held in the US, Alvaro Lopez Tardon, a Spaniard, is the “brains” behind the group, Mr Olivera said.

His brother, Artemio, was arrested in Madrid and it was at his home that the cash was found, under the living room floor.

“We have broken up the organisation and cut off their operations,” said the officer in charge of the operation, Jose Luis Gudina.

The operation, codenamed Azalea after the name of the street where Artemio lived, has been ongoing for two years, during which police investigated “all the businesses and their proxies” used by the gang to move their money.

The group was involved in laundering money from drug trafficking from Colombia through a network of companies principally engaged in export-import, often involving luxury cars, and with accounts in tax havens.

Police also seized 21 properties in Madrid and four in Miami worth a total of 75m euros (£47m), as well as 60 cars, jewellery, watches, gold, and five guns.

A police statement described it as the “biggest network in Europe involved in laundering money from drug trafficking”.

All those held are accused of money laundering and drug trafficking.

Spain’s closeness to north Africa, a key source of marijuana, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine-producing region, have made it a major gateway into Europe for drug traffickers.

NEWS UPDATE:

Spanish police said they seized some $35 million in cash, kept in 50- and 100-euro bills, in Madrid on Monday.
Spanish police said they seized some $35 million in cash, kept in 50- and 100-euro bills, in Madrid on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

More than 20 people are arrested; 17 in Spain and 4 in the United States

Agents seize five dozen cars, 25 properties and $35 million in cash

The cash was kept in 50- and 100-euro bills, Spanish police say

 (CNN) — Authorities in Spain and the United States have busted an international drug money-laundering ring and seized buildings, cars and cash valued at more than $140 million, the Spanish National Police said Monday.

More than 20 people were arrested — 17 in Spain and 4 in the United States — during the operation, more than two years in the making.

Authorities accuse those arrested with participating in a drug money-laundering ring that spanned three continents.

As U.S. authorities tell it, cocaine was smuggled in multihundred-kilogram quantities from Colombia to Spain, where it was processed and sold. The proceeds were then sent to a man, identified by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida as Alvaro Lopez Tardon, who would allegedly launder the money with the help of at least two co-conspirators.

Tardon is thought to have received more than $26 million in drug proceeds from Spain between 2004 and the present, the attorney’s office said in a statement. He is accused of working with his brother, Artemio Lopez Tardon, who reportedly lives in Spain.

Among the group’s favorite ways to launder money was through the purchase and sale of real estate and luxury cars, authorities said. They seized 21 properties in Spain, four in the United States and 60 cars, including one thought to be worth more than $2.8 million.

Spanish police said they also seized some $35 million in cash, kept in 50- and 100-euro bills, in Madrid.

“From the beaches of Miami to the shores of Spain, the fight against crime has no boundaries,” said Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies of the FBI Miami Division in a statement. “This is another outstanding example of an international partnership, this time with the Spanish National Police, that disrupted a major drug organization.”

CNN’s Elwyn Lopez contributed to this report.

RELATED TOPICS

Spanish National Police

Crime

Colombia

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