Spain and France Arrest 28 Suspected Members of the ‘Thieves in Law’ Crime Group
In a joint operation, Spanish and French authorities have detained 28 suspected members of the infamous criminal organization network Vory V Zakone, or translated from Russian - Thieves in Law, Europol announced. Most of the suspects are Armenians and Georgians, and among them was their presumed leader.
The criminal organization was allegedly involved in a range of illegal activities, including aggravated property crime, racketeering, extortion, and money laundering carried out mostly in Spain.
The group was also found to be involved in the theft and sale of stolen goods, the smuggling of tobacco, and the laundering of criminal assets.
The raids led to the seizure of numerous luxury items, such as 16 luxury watches, one of which was valued at 39,000 euros (US$42,453), eight vehicles, six weapons with ammunition, one bullet-proof vest, two GPS detection devices, over 60,000 euros ($65,339) in cash, numerous mobile phones and electronic devices, and various items associated with the "Thieves in Law" organization, such as symbols and jewelry.
The French Criminal Police initiated the investigation into the criminal structure in November 2020.
The Spanish national police had previously investigated and detained the leader of the group in 2018 in connection with an attempted assassination of a criminal rival.
According to law enforcement, the criminal network was "highly compartmentalized," with strict codes of conduct in place to protect the leader and ensure the organization's survival.
To protect the boss, the criminal network used different vehicles registered under the names of members of the organization and rented a house under a different name.
The leader's vehicles were regularly examined by organization members to detect electronic tracking devices that may have been installed by the police.
Additionally, the investigation revealed that the organization was involved in the sale of tobacco in Armenian prisons, where they had many contacts, leading to criminal prosecution by authorities in Armenia.
According to Interpol, "Thieves in Law" members mostly speak Russian and come from a variety of countries, including Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine.
Like other mafia-style organizations, the "Thieves in Law" pollute economies around the world by investing the proceeds of their criminal activities into legitimate funds and businesses, extending their leverage in a given sector.
Contributing to a common criminal fund worth billions and managed by the most influential and high-ranking members, known as the "Obshak," they invest in shares, real estate, and companies.