Large cannabis distribution network taken apart

Large cannabis distribution network taken apart

8 involved in massive cannabis trafficking arrested in Spain and Italy. Criminal network linked to more than six tons of intercepted cannabis and hashish shipments.. Europol supported the Italian Financial Guard (Guardia di Finanza) and the Spanish Catalan Regional Police (Mossos d’Esquadra) in dismantling a major criminal network behind several tons of cannabis smuggled into the EU.

The investigation, also supported by Eurojust, has dealt a heavy blow to the money laundering network that liquidates the illicit proceeds. In total, 78 arrests (58 in Italy and 20 in Spain), 104 searches (89 in Italy and 25 in Spain) and seizures of approximately 350 kg of cannabis (327 kg of hashish and 33 kg of marijuana), weapons and electronic material. The seizure of documents and goods worth 845,000 euros, Europol said.

Large cannabis distribution network taken apart - cannabis, Crime, Drugs, News 2Large cannabis distribution network taken apart - cannabis, Crime, Drugs, News 3

Six tons of cannabis and hashish

The criminal network had already suffered a major blow in November 2022, when Europol supported a coordinated action that led to the arrest of 36 suspects of Albanian, Italian and Spanish nationality in Italy. Dutch and Spanish authorities have arrested a further six suspects due to the execution of European arrest warrants.

Between 2019 and 2021 alone, law enforcement authorities in Italy and Spain seized more than six tons of cannabis and hashish, as well as cannabinoid-based e-cigarette refills.

Organized crime

Criminal investigations started in Italy in 2019 and in Spain in 2022. Investigations were also carried out into human trafficking and the organizations behind it that may use platforms such as Sky Ecc and Ecrochat. Payments for drug shipments were arranged through an informal hawala-like banking system known as fei-ch’ien. Operated primarily by Chinese nationals, this underground banking system allows the transfer of cash from one country to another through a network of trusted offices.

The money is not physically sent, but rather the offices are subsequently cleared. The investigation revealed two separate networks: one involved in drug trafficking and one involved in money laundering. Although different, the networks are connected through their leaders. Financial and asset recovery investigations are still ongoing.

Source: Europol.com (EN)



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