Spanish Police Bust International Money Laundering Group

Published: 21 January 2021

Madrid ArrestsSpanish police arrested four accused of a money laundering, allegedly tied to South American drug cartels. (Photo: Europol)

By Sadie Brown

Authorities in Spain arrested four accused of a money laundering, debt collection and murder-for-hire entreprise with ties to South American drug cartels.

The Spanish Civil Guard, as part of a joint operation with Europol and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, also seized cash, firearms, jewelry and luxury cars from three properties near Madrid, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

“The criminal organization used the network of hitmen to collect payments across Spain from other criminal groups buying drugs from the South American cartels to redistribute them locally,” Europol said.

The agency added the case had already seen seven other individuals and one company charged.

The joint investigation, Operation Burlero, began two years ago when a possible Madrid-based crime ring was allegedly detected funneling cash for Columbian and Peruvian drug cartels.

Intel obtained by the Civil Guard led to the discovery of “front men” procuring luxury goods for the leaders of the group, and later the use of nominee account holders, colloquially known as “smurfs”, who would deposit illegal cash for under-the-radar transfers.

Europol shared a video of the raid that shows police searching a spacious home filled with designer clothes, shoes, watches, luxury vehicles, cash, weapons, ammunition, and law enforcement badges.