MORE than 18 tonnes of illegal tobacco with an estimated street value in excess of €2.7 million has been seized in Elche, in the Guardia Civil’s latest sting operation.
Two men and a woman have been apprehended, while a third man is also under investigation; all four are Spanish citizens.
The investigation was opened following a training seminar attended by police officers alongside tobacco shop owners, distributors and members of the Tax Agency, which resulted in a month of intensive snooping.
Detectives picked up the suspicious trail of a shipment of boxes which was en route to a private residence in Olivares, Sevilla, via a well-known transport firm, but the address turned out to be nonexistent, the driver receiving a call with alternative instructions just prior to his arrival.
The contents of the boxes comprised around 600 kilos of fake fags, with the recipient a notorious dealer of black market tobacco, although he was not the main target of the exercise, and the focus subsequently shifted to Elche, where a dubious-looking ship had been identified.
On board, facilities used to store, chop and package tobacco were unearthed, and although the parent company of the boat was licensed to do so, they were in fact sending tobacco from a separate location, and under-reporting the quantities involved.
The group had also published a media article detailing how tobacco residues could be turned into fertilizers and insecticides, in an attempt to ‘legalise’ their operation, but did not have the necessary documentation authorising them to carry out the process.
The criminal cabal were thus found to be purchasing raw materials via a ‘screen’ company, then selling the tobacco to direct contacts and on several websites; they are suspected to have distributed a whopping 54 tonnes of the stuff with a value of €8 million since 2014.