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EU police bust dangerous crime gang, arrest 22

IANS  |  Madrid 

The have busted a highly professional and dangerous international crime gang, raiding 40 properties and arresting 22 suspected members including the ringleader in a massive operation spanning five countries, the EU's agency said on Wednesday.

The operation "Icebreaker" broke up the gang, which is thought to have amassed an estimated 680 million euros ($760 million) in ill-gotten gains through assassinations, money laundering as well as drug and cigarette trafficking between 2016-2019, Europol said.

"Searches took place, resulting in the seizure of 8 million euros in cash, diamonds, gold bars, jewellery, luxury vehicles as well as the discovery of hidden compartments used to smuggle drugs and psychotropic substances," according to a statement cited by news.

The raids took place in the early hours of May 15-16 during which the supported by Europol and Eurojust arrested the alleged gang leader, a 48-year-old Lithuanian national, in Huelva, southwest

Police officials described the operation as the largest of its kind to date in -- with over 450 police and customs officers deployed in Poland, Lithuania, the and

A substantial quantity of illicit cigarettes was also seized.

"This criminal group would traffic drugs and cigarettes into the UK, before smuggling the illegally obtained cash to by different means," the police statement said.

"The money was then laundered via currency exchange offices and subsequently invested in in and other countries."

The suspected criminals also employed to evade organizations.

In what Europol described as an unprecedented collaboration between the police and Justice Departments, the involved the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau, the British HM Revenue and Customs, the Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, the Estonian Central Criminal Police under the Police and and the Spanish Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional.

Three Europol experts were deployed to and to provide tailor-made operational support while police officers from Lithuania, Spain and were aided by a system that enabled real-time exchanges of information between their national authorities.

A swift analysis of data collected during the operation also permitted the officers to adjust their strategy on the ground as required.



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First Published: Wed, May 22 2019. 17:52 IST