SIXTY-FOUR people have been arrested in ‘Operation Leatherface’ against a large branded goods falsification network linked to the Italian mafia, Guardia Civil said.
Another 60 people involved with the network have also been identified and international arrest warrants are being issued against them.
The detainees, 62 of them Italians, are charged with illegal association, money laundering, tax evasion and crimes against industrial property.
Amongst them is the man in charge of the operation, his sidekick and their accountant.
The investigation began in 2010 when the Guardia Civil’s Economic Crimes Group found out through Europol of the criminal activity which was being carried out by the organization.
It was run from Naples, by several members of the same family linked to the mafia, who attempted to monopolize a sector.
They purchased huge amounts of falsified brand name goods, including tools, machinery and textiles which were produced by 25 companies in China after having received the original product which they were supposed to copy.
Thousands of these fake goods were imported to Spain and Italy.
Part of the shipments, which arrived via Sevilla, Valencia and Malaga, were sold here and the rest sent to France, Germany, the USA, Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Finland, Canada, Holland, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Portugal.
Once they arrived at their destination, the organization divided them into sales areas, and salesmen, mostly Italians, would walk the streets and visit shops offering the products for less than their market value.
None of the goods carried quality, safety or operation guarantees.
To make them appear legal, they had created a group of 20 businesses which they used to launder the money by transferring it to different societies and issuing false bills and receipts.
Guardia Civil searched premises in Malaga, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla, seizing large quantities of merchandise, as well as documents related to the investigation which were passed on to the Italian Guarda di Finanza, leading to 12 properties in Naples and Rome being searches and further goods being seized.