Spanish police said on Thursday that they had smashed Europe’s most active and largest gang printing counterfeit money, which made over €8 million in fake cash and specialised in producing bogus €500 banknotes.
Agents of the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, together with agents of the Investigation Brigade of the Bank of Spain attached to the Spanish National Police, in coordination with Europol, started a joint investigation in mid-2021 when the circulation of high-quality €500 notes was detected across large parts of Spain. More than 100 agents were involved in the investigation.
The Bank of Spain’s Investigation Brigade became aware of numerous counterfeit notes throughout the country during 2021 and had also identified the main suspect, who had already been arrested in 2009 for similar events. The new fake banknotes had many links in common with those that had already been confiscated in 2009, and there was already evidence of the suspect’s high specialisation and great knowledge in graphic arts.
The probe gathered pace after a neighbour of one of the suspected members of the ring found a bag with €4.3 million in fake bills in front of his home near Barcelona, said the head of the counterfeit money unit of Catalonia’s police force, Sergi Sánchez.
Some of the bills did not have ‘the holographic patch’ that makes it possible to verify their authenticity, he told a Madrid news conference where counterfeit bills and seized machinery were displayed.
The purchase of a bicycle with fake €500 notes allowed Catalan police to find the suspects.
Jorge Ruiz, a lawyer at the Bank of Spain, said the counterfeit banknotes were of ‘very high quality’ and virtually undetectable to the naked eye.
Three of the arrested met in prison in Valencia, where they planned and perfected their trade.
As a result of the operation, eleven people were arrested including the printer and the main distributors. Six raids and searches were carried out at homes, two industrial buildings and a caravan, in Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Teruel and Malaga.
The printing ‘laboratory’, which is estimated to have produced more than €8m in banknotes, was completely dismantled in the police operation.
‘This money was allegedly destined to commit different criminal activities, such as the purchase of drugs,’ a police statement said.
Desarticulem amb @policia i @Europol el laboratori de falsificació de bitllets de 500€ més important d’Europa amb una producció de més de 8 Md’€. Adquirien a la Xina maquinària especialitzada, tintes i hologrames. Feien falsificacions d'elevada qualitat https://t.co/NtGUKDv1N5 pic.twitter.com/SXccSQvWbG— Mossos (@mossos) October 6, 2022
🚨 More than EUR 4 million in fake 500 euro bills seized in Spain.— Europol (@Europol) October 6, 2022
💶 Europol supported 🇪🇸 authorities in dismantling an organised crime group involved in the production and distribution of counterfeit euro banknotes
Press release ⤵️https://t.co/RuzqSR9K35 pic.twitter.com/ptSfmp2ze7