52 members of a criminal organisation arrested for marihuana distribution and arms trafficking

05 September 2016
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This News/Press release is about Drug Trafficking

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In a joint operation, the Spanish Guardia Civil, in close cooperation with the regional Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra, the Lithuanian Police and Europol, arrested 52 persons for marihuana distribution and arms trafficking.

Throughout the course of this three-phase operation initiated in 2015, 58 house searches were carried out in Spain and Lithuania, resulting in the dismantlement of 5 marihuana plantations and 2 firearms modification workshops. Marihuana and other narcotic substances were also seized on the premises, alongside different types of fully operational firearms, ammunition, 14 high-end vehicles and machinery for firearms modification.

The modus operandi of this criminal organisation involved hiding the marihuana in fruit and vegetables shipments to Europe, legalised with documents falsified by them. In parallel, the criminal organisation was also involved in the acquisition of deactivated firearms, putting them back into use and selling them in Europe.

The first phase of this operation took place in April 2016 in several locations in Catalonia. At that time, 22 house searches were carried out in Lleida and Barcelona, resulting in the arrest of 24 suspects of Spanish and Lithuanian nationality. 4 fully-equipped marihuana plantations were then dismantled, and different types of weapons, 14 high-end vehicles and EUR 60 000 in cash seized.

The second phase took place between May and June 2016 in Malaga, Almeria, Murcia and Alicante. 14 house searches were carried out in Spain and 17 suspects arrested. An underground marihuana plantation and a workshop for firearms modification were discovered during one of the house searches. In parallel, the Lithuanian Police carried out 19 house searches, resulting in the arrest of 9 individuals and the dismantlement of yet another workshop for firearms modification.

The third and final phase took place in July 2016 resulting in the arrest of 2 Spanish individuals in Valencia and Castellon.

Europol closely supported this joint Spanish-Lithuanian investigation by facilitating the exchange of information and operational meetings. During the actions days of the second phase, Europol mobile offices were deployed to Spain and Lithuania, allowing for real-time exchange of information and cross-checks of the data gathered in the course of the action against Europol’s databases.