Madrid – Spain's Civil Guard dismantled a major Chinese criminal organization based in the Iberian nation, arresting 34 people suspected of laundering up to 40 million euros ($57.6 million) per year in proceeds from the sale of counterfeit tobacco and other pirated goods.
Goods valued at more than 11 million euros ($15.8 million) were confiscated during operation "Long."
The ring is believed to have operated in Spain since the late 1990s, the General Directorate of the Civil Guard said Wednesday in a statement.
Headed by a Chinese family, the group allegedly smuggled between four and six containers loaded with tobacco and other counterfeit products, such as textiles and leatherwork, every month through the Mediterranean port of Valencia.
The organization obtained millions of euros in profits that were later sent to China, where another branch of the group laundered the money.
An investigation by the Civil Guard's economic crimes unit, launched in in 2007, revealed that the same ring also offered money-laundering services to other criminal gangs.
Among the tactics it employed to disguise the origin of its ill-gotten gains were the use of "mules" to transport money inside clothing or other personal belongings and high-volume bank transfers of less than 20,000 euros ($28,800) each.
The ring laundered the money with the use of Chinese nationals whom it had previously helped enter Spain through job offers.
Leaders of the ring forced these individuals to work in illegal, precarious conditions and took away their passports upon arrival in Spain to exercise more control over them.
The ring further exploited these people by lending them money at exorbitant interest rates or laundering profits through bank accounts opened in their names.