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Spanish Cops Dismantle Drugs Gang Who Used ‘hawala’ System to Launder Over €65m

The National Police in Spain have arrested 27 members of a criminal organization that allegedly managed to launder more than €65 million obtained from drug trafficking in just one year through the “hawala” method. an informal payment system parallel to the banking system.

The gang, made up of two Albanian leaders and several operators of Chinese origin, also provided support from various points in Spain to other international organizations to launder illicitly obtained funds.

The investigation began following intelligence reports sent by Europol, thanks to which the members of Albanian origin were identified, who were mainly dedicated to drug trafficking and indoor marijuana cultivation.

Chinese citizens, for their part, delivered large amounts of money to the businesses of their Albanian partners, where they accumulated large amounts of money later delivered to drug traffickers and their “mules” in exchange for financial compensation.

They sent the money to China using the “hawala” method, for which they used a “token” that corresponds to the numbering of a low-value bill, thus evading legal controls in Spain. This procedure does not require traditional bank accounts and leaves few records, which is why it is commonly used for money laundering or drug trafficking.

To carry out such transactions, the sender contacts a local “hawaladar” and gives him the money along with a password that has previously been agreed upon with the recipient. Then, the “hawaladar” contacts his counterpart in the country of destination of the money, who will deliver the corresponding amount to the recipient after ensuring that he knows the password.

In addition, investigators determined that the two Albanian ringleaders, one who acted as a leader and the other as a lieutenant and accountant, had two Chinese coordinators, who managed numerous Asian establishments that serviced the cash requests of the criminal organizations for which they worked.

The first three arrests took place at a home in Madrid, where agents found almost 65 kilograms of marijuana. Seven arrests followed in Madrid, the same number in Malaga, six in Barcelona, two in Seville and one in Alicante and Valencia, respectively.

During the searches, €615,000 in cash, ten luxury watches worth more than €400,000, two high-end vehicles, money counting machines, computer equipment and encrypted mobile phones were seized.

The Albanian leader of the organization was arrested as the alleged perpetrator of a crime of illegal possession of weapons and another of illegal detention, since he kidnapped one of the “hawaladers.”

The National Police estimates that the gang would have managed to move a total of €65.5 million euros between May 2020 and March 2021.

Source: Sunday World