SPAIN’s Guardia Civil have dismantled a huge contraband operation centring on prized bluefin tuna.
Seventy-nine people accused of making an annual profit of €25 million in black money have now been arrested in 12 provinces.
According to the online publication, El Confidencial, the Guardia Civil found that the criminal network introduced an annual 1,250 tons of tuna into Spain plus another 2,500 tons on forged documentation.
These figures are a conservative estimate, revealed officers from Guardia Civil’s Central Environmental Operations Unit (UCOMA).
Tuna caught by boats from Spain, France, Malta, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya amongst others who exceeded their quotas were provided with forged documents proving that it was fattened in Maltese fish farms.
Malta’s director general of Fisheries, Andreina Fenech Farrugia was sacked earlier this month following an earlier El Confidencial investigation revealed that she was taking money from the tuna-smuggling network.
One of the wholesale companies involved in the clandestine trade operating from Mercamadrid had a 2017 turnover of almost €125 million and subsequent investigations suggest that it was selling contraband tuna to fishmongers and restaurants.
Two other companies belonging to the same family had a turnover of €23 million in legitimate imports that same year, but investigators are unsure how much was earned in black money as payments were routinely made cash in hand.
Initially the findings of the UCOMA investigation, codenamed Operacion Tarantelo, was handled by a Picassent (Valencia) court but was transferred to the Madrid High Court last January.