EXPERTS from the Guardia Civil and the National Police have indicated that there are 440 organised crime groups currently operating in Spain, out of the 3,600 which have been identified in all of Europe.
Of the ones in Spain, the police have indicated that at least 10 of these are labelled as “high intensity” groups, meaning that they have at least 20 members, have been operating for more than three years, are transnational, and are “polycriminals”, in that the members of the group are typically involved in one main criminal activity but are also linked to others.
These are the heavy-hitters of organised crime, with large and complex networks that extend across borders. They tend to operate like discreet business enterprises, maintaining a convincing air of legitimacy on top while carrying out their illicit transactions underneath.
On Monday November 7, police in Mallorca arrested a well-known Spanish businessman. This “respectable” forty-year-old, who has a wife and several children, had forged a career running seven businesses supposedly dedicated to construction and slot machines.
But hidden under this veneer of respectability there in fact existed a complex money-laundering network working in tandem with a drug trafficking operation which had apparently been operating on the island for “at least three years” according to police reports. This elaborate crime network brought an average of 150 kilos of cocaine to the island per year, which was later distributed by subcontracting a long-established gypsy drug gang.
Overall, seven people were arrested for their ties to the criminal group, which is only one of many similar organisations currently scattered throughout the country. Although a great deal of them operate out of Madrid and Barcelona, they are also prevalent in touristic areas such Málaga, Alicante, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands, where they can live better and camouflage themselves more easily.
The majority of these criminal groups are dedicated to drug trafficking and fraud, although there are organisations revolving around everything from illegal immigration to prostitution to burglaries and car theft.
On the other side of the coin, police experts have argued that the concept of the mafia – understood as large family organisations which have infiltrated public institutions – is still not a driving force in Spain. Smaller examples of this phenomenon may be witnessed from time to time, but nothing on the scale of some other European countries.