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Saturday, 19 February, 2000, 09:32 GMT
Spanish police arrest drugs gang

bags of cocaine The money came from the sale of Colombian cocaine


By Daniel Schweimler in Madrid

A gang that was alleged to be laundering millions of dollars for Colombian drugs cartels has been broken up by Spanish police.

Eight gang leaders were among 28 people charged after a six-month operation.

The money came mostly from cocaine sold in Britain and Spain.

cocaine harvest Gang was selling cocaine for a Colombian drugs cartel
The head of the Spanish police force, Juan Cotino, said an international network of money launderers had been completely dismantled.

The leaders, five Spanish, two Colombians and one American were arrested in Madrid and Barcelona.

Police also found large sums of money in Spanish pesetas and British sterling, as well as false documents.

Money was found in banks in Portgual, France and Andorra.

False accounts

The Bank of Spain has a well-developed system to detect illegal transfers of money from the country, so fictitious funeral and farming companies were set up to move the cash out of Spain.

The money was then sent to the United States, where it was converted into dollars and sent on to the Colombian gangs that had sold the drugs in the first place.

Almost $24m dollars were transferred from Europe to Colombia via Miami in this way.

Spanish police working in collaboration with several other forces began their operation last August.

The dismantling of the money laundering gang comes after a series of successful Spanish police operations against international drug cartels.

But Spain's criminal gangs have well established links with illegal drug operations in Latin America and access to thousands of kilometres of coastline which are difficult to police.

And while that remains the case few doubt that illegal drugs will continue to flow into Europe through Spain.

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See also:
07 Jul 99 |  Europe
Record cocaine seizure in Spain
24 Apr 99 |  Europe
'Record' drugs haul in Spain
03 May 98 |  Europe
Cocaine ring cracked
07 Feb 00 |  UK
Former bank robber 'arrested' in Spain

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