Detectives in Torrevieja stumbled across a remarkable criminal operation involving a money laundering antique shop, priceless artworks, guns and elephant tusks, after they began investigating the theft of hundreds of bee hives across the Vega Baja.
Allegations from local beekeepers that mysterious thieves were stealing their hives with alarming frequency led investigators to Almeria. There they encountered two beekeepers who claimed to have bought several hives for €8,000, with the timeline identical to the Vega Baja thefts.
Suspicions were raised when police found inconsistencies in the accounts of certain Costa Blanca beekeepers and they became convinced that some were ‘stealing’ their own hives, claiming the insurance money and then selling the hives on in different regions for profit.
Officers tailed an antique shop owner with a criminal past, whom they suspected of involvement with the hive heists, and found his mobile number matched various online advertisements for quick cash sales of historic artworks valued from €3,000 to €18,000.
Among the items was a wooden carving of the Virgin Mary dating back to the 17th century. The total value of the art collection was estimated to be well in excess of €90,000.
The detained man had a criminal record related to a 2006 burglary in which several firearms were stolen, so, believing he may be armed and dangerous, a full tactical unit raided the man’s Orihuela home where they came across the astonishing haul.
Alongside weapons, including a pistol, rifle, and shotgun, police found 171 beehives, 45 honeycombs, 205 historic coins, ancient Chinese vases, bronze sculptures, ivory elephant tusks and 30 watches.
The 51-year-old criminal, a Spanish national, was arrested on the spot with his Brazilian ex-wife and another accomplice. The trio now face charges including fraud, theft, weapons possession and crimes against Spain’s cultural heritage.