An undated handout composite photo made available by the Spanish Civil Guard shows officers during a raid on an alleged international crime organization accused of illegally manufacturing and trafficking tobacco and drugs in Malaga, southern Spain (issued 20 February 2020).
The ring’s alleged members are of British, Lithuanian and Ukrainian nationalities.
The operation, codenamed ‘Hannibal,’ was carried out in collaboration with British security forces, other foreign police forces and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL).
The operation uncovered a full range of production facilities operated by the criminal group. Law enforcement authorities raided the primary production facility where the raw tobacco was cut and prepared for the second production phase. T
he Spanish law enforcement officers uncovered the manufacturing facility hidden in a bunker four metres underground. In the facility, believed to have been operating since 2019, workers made and packed the counterfeit cigarettes; a complete production line under one roof. Beds and living quarters for the workers were also found underground.
This is the first underground factory to be discovered in the EU. Workers there were forced to work in extremely dangerous and toxic conditions. Locked up four metres underground, they were not allowed to leave the facility on their own, and no emergency security was in place.
Similar cases uncovered that criminals blindfold the workers when taking them to and from the factory. Although paid for their work in the facility, workers are usually not allowed to leave or make contact with others while working.
Criminals often even sealed the premises to enforce this. These illegal activities are estimated to bring in about €625 000 per week in criminal profits.
Photo: EPA-EFE/SPANISH CIVIL GUARD HANDOUT