32 arrested in hit on major European crime ring

32 arrested in hit on major European crime ring
# 26 May 2010 04:22 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. British, Irish and Spanish police launched dawn raids Tuesday in a coordinated hit aimed at smashing a major European guns, drugs and money laundering empire, authorities said, APA reports quoting news.yahoo.com website.
Some 32 people were arrested, including the suspected "godfather", in a strike on a crime conspiracy with tentacles stretching across the globe.
"The target was a criminal network suspected of trafficking huge quantities of drugs and firearms and of laundering hundreds of millions of pounds (dollars, euros) in criminal profits," Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said in a statement.
The gang’s suspected crime lord, a 53-year-old Irish-born British national living in Malaga, was arrested in the southern Spanish coastal resort.
Spanish officers detained him along with family members, other British and Irish nationals and four Spanish lawyers.
The 20 suspects arrested in Spain were being questioned in Malaga.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, speaking to Spanish public television from Warsaw, said the raids focused on a "mafia family" based on the southern Costa del Sol.
"It’s an operation against well-known mafia operating in different countries which is linked to different killings, as well as a number of crimes from drugs trafficking to people trafficking."
About 750 officers were involved in the operation.
In Britain around 230 officers raided homes and businesses, with nine men and two women across southeastern England and the west Midlands arrested and taken for questioning.
"The scale of this joint operation by law enforcement agencies from so many countries is an indication of how prolific we think this network was," said SOCA’s Trevor Pearce.
"Today’s arrests will have dealt a major blow to an organised criminal business suspected of supplying drugs and guns to gangs in cities across the UK and Europe.
"We also believe this network has been offering a global investment service, ploughing hundreds of millions of pounds of dirty cash into offshore accounts, companies, and property on behalf of criminals."
Properties were also searched in Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus and Brazil. Irish police were questioning one man in Dublin.
Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said no border would protect those involved in organised crime.
The raids showed the determination of law enforcement agencies, backed by their governments, "to take international gangs straight on".
Detectives were seeking further suspects in Britain, Spain and Ireland.
Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency based in The Hague, said they had been coordinating efforts to bring down the network since July 2008.
They said the mob was a multi-faceted organisation "led by top Irish criminals".
They had an extensive network of lucrative criminal commercial and financial transactions not only in Europe but in South America, Africa and the Far East too.
They identified members through "surveillance, wire-tapping activities and investigations".
The crime lords regularly travelled across Europe to direct their associates, backed up by lawyers who created corporate vehicles to mask the real owners and perform illegal transactions.
"Evidence has shown that criminals are even more concerned about losing their ill-gotten gains than going to prison," said Europol director Rob Wainwright.
"This operation hit them in the worst possible place -- their wallets."