AN Italian mafia boss and five gang members arrested for stealing fruit and vegetables worth €2.5 million in Alicante Province.
Officers of the Guardia Civil received a number of complaints from a fruit and vegetable grower in Cox, Alicante Province who had been persuaded to sell 1,600,000 kilos of produce to a group of people claiming to represent a large UK supermarket chain but no payment was received.
When the documents concerning the shipments were investigated, officers saw a number of irregularities in the paper work which pointed to the fact that rather than being sent to the UK, the consignments were sent to France, Italy and Romania and were sold on the black market.
With the help of INTERPOL and the Romanian Police, the Guardia Civil was able to identify the transport company used to ship the bulk of the material and this led the officers to the supposed representative of the UK supermarket.
The investigation was able to piece together the way in which the scam operated, with the producer being sent credible documentation purporting to be formal orders and then the fruit and vegetables were collected in lorries which had fake number plates and carried false logos on their sides.
All of the produce was transferred to a warehouse in Real in Valencia Province before being placed on new transports bearing legal number plates.
Once the companies involved had not been paid after the promised month, they contacted the person who had placed the order who explained that there had been a slight delay but all would be ok if they were patient. Any subsequent call was ignored.
After further investigation, it transpired that two other companies, one in in Betxi (Castellon) and the other in La Rinconada (Sevilla) has also been caught up in the fraud and the investigators were able to identify those involved in defrauding them.
Apart from the members of the gang, they also arrested two Italians, one of whom has been identified as the head of a Sicilian mafia group who had, according to the Guardia Civil previously been involved on a bombing attack on his own family.
The operation was masterminded by the Guardia Civil in Torrevieja with assistance from other divisions.