Spanish Police Detains Group that Ran a Hidden Cigarette Factory
Spanish police detained 20 suspected members of an organized crime group that ran an illegal cigarette factory in a bunker hidden four meters below the ground at a horse stable near Malaga. Workers inside were locked up for days and almost suffocated due to lack of air.
When police approached the site, officers heard screams and stormed the entrance that was hidden under a shipping container, police said last week. They found six Ukrainian workers who were hardly breathing because the airflow to the bunker was cut when authorities detained the organizers and there was nobody to refill the generator.
The detained suspects never mentioned the locked workers who could have died would police had not found them in time.
The bunker was fully equipped with beds and cigarette-making machines that could produce about 3,500 cigarettes a day. The six workers had no contact with the outside world.
One of the leaders of the group that ran the production facility is a British national who fled the UK where he is wanted for drug trafficking and forgery of documents. Another detainee is a Lithuanian wanted at home for smuggling.
Europol supported the operation, which also involved the Lithuanian Customs Criminal Service, Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement authorities from the United Kingdom.
The bunker is the first underground factory of this kind discovered in the European Union.
During the operation, police seized over three million counterfeit cigarettes, 20 kg of hashish, 144 kg of marijuana, three guns, eight GPS tracking devices and a jamming device.
According to Europol, the group sold cigarettes on the European black market.
The workers were immediately released.