The Civil Guard, together with the Tax Agency and the Austrian Police, within the framework of Operation DRYER, have dismantled in Spain and Austria a criminal network dedicated to the production, development and distribution of NPS (New Psychoactive Substances) at an international level.
And money laundering through the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies, mainly Bitcoins, product of the profit obtained from the sale of these substances through the Internet.
The investigation begins in 2015, with the interception of a package in Hof (Bavaria) by the German police, containing several types of these substances. The shipment, from a post office box in Ogijares (Granada), pointed to the existence of a criminal structure based in that province.
In this way, researchers detect a large movement of packages and postal envelopes, sent from that post office box to more than 100 different countries, containing narcotic substances camouflaged as other products of recognized brands whose commercialization is legal, such as additives for cement. or products against moisture. After this operation there was a large conglomerate of companies and societies in several countries, some of them offshore, whose purpose was none other than to give an appearance of legality to the illicit activity they carried out and launder the economic benefits obtained from it.
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Laboratories in the Netherlands and Spain
This organization had been operating in our country since 2012 and it has been verified that it initially imported the raw material for the production of psychoactive substances from Asian countries, mainly China. However, a change of legal regulation and a hardening of penalties in these countries meant the modification in the way of supplying these substances.
For this reason, the organization installed a laboratory in Amsterdam, which served as the production unit of the NPS, hiring two chemical engineers and acquiring scientific material worth more than € 200,000, such as synthesis reactors, chromatographs, stone crushing machines or numerous analysis and laboratory material.
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From this laboratory the narcotic substances were designed and produced, later derived to two other laboratories installed in Alhendín (Granada) and La Pobla de Vallbona (Valencia), which were directly managed by the organization and in which the final treatment was carried out to the product, packaging and distribution to the final consumer.
Deep Web, Cryptocurrency and Hawala Network
The offer of the NPS was made exclusively through web pages whose access was restricted to previously invited users and which were redirected from forums specialized in the matter and which, normally, operated under the protection of the darknet. According to the study and monitoring carried out in these forums, two of the web pages managed by the organization enjoyed a great reputation, being the most known and exclusive worldwide in this field. This contributed, not only to the protection of their illicit business, but also to that of their own clients, who, in turn, and based on the quantities acquired, could also become minor distributors of the same.
The means of payment offered by the web pages to their customers were virtual payment platforms such as Paypal, Payward or Payvision, which were deposited in bank accounts linked to companies of the organization, or through cryptocurrency transfers, mainly Bitcoin (BTC).
The preferred means of payment by the organization was through BTC and so they let their customers know, to those who recommended making the payment through this system, thus guaranteeing the anonymity of both parties. In addition, once received the payment of Bitcoins for the purchase of the NPS, these were redistributed in different “wallets”, making the tracking of this type of transactions very difficult.
To convert these benefits into cash, those investigated used the traditional system of the “Hawala”, through different intermediaries with other criminal organizations, reaching transactions of up to € 700,000, money that was later deposited in safes of specialized companies.
On March 7, simultaneous registrations were made in various locations in Granada, Valencia, Madrid and Seitzersdorf (Austria), arresting all members of the criminal organization, consisting of 8 people of Spanish, Austrian and French nationality.
In the registers, two NPS treatment, packaging and distribution laboratories were dismantled, where more than 100 different classes of these substances were found, which weighed around 112 kg and which were perfectly classified, with their chemical formulation and ready for sale, Most of them in 250 mg and 500 mg containers. The laboratories were perfectly equipped technically and distributed by dependencies with specific functions such as packaging, encapsulation, treatment of the samples, weighing or analysis. Also, in the Valencia laboratory were located 788,606 doses of LSD, arranged in blotters and ready for consumption, being the largest historical seizure of this type of drug in the EU.
In the homes of the two main objectives, in Austria and Granada, dozens of computer supports, computers and encryption systems were found, serving as a basis for the management and management of the corporate and economic framework. Thus, specialists from the Telematic Crimes Group of the Central Operative Unit and the Austrian Police were able to seize 509 BTC, which meant a change of € 4,500,000, with the highest value intervention of this type of cryptocurrency in Europe so far. and one of the largest in the world. They have also recovered € 137,000 in IOTA and € 30,000 in LUMEN.
In parallel, numerous bank accounts with an approximate value of 2,000,000 €, 3 real estate properties with a value close to one million euros, 10 high-end vehicles and more than € 650,000 in cash have been seized. In total properties and assets have been recovered with an approximate valuation of 8 million euros, estimating that the criminal organization could have laundered and reinvested money worth more than 40 million euros, having been suspended the activities of four mercantile companies that they served as legal instruments to commit a crime.
Likewise, it has proceeded to block and close the web pages from which the products were distributed, creating a large media impact in social networks and forums linked to this type of illicit market.