Police arrest a member of the network during the raid, which was carried out in various municipalities along the western coast.
An operation that began yesterday has resulted in the arrest of 31 members of an Irish mafia organisation, 17 of whom were detained in Estepona, Marbella, Fuengirola and Mijas. In total, searches were carried out in 122 houses, lawyers' offices and other private establishments. 500 police officers participated in the raid that was carried out simultaneously in Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom, coordinated by Europol.
This group, whose connections extend to at least 20 countries worldwide, is considered one of the largest criminal organisations on an international scale, although predominantly in the British Isles. According to Europol, the group is suspected of being involved in more than 20 murders committed in various different countries. It was the investigation of one of these murders that gave birth to 'Operation Shovel', as the raid has been named. In February 2008 Paddy Doyle, a 28-year-old Irish citizen, who was known to the police for his involvement in organised crime, died from numerous gunshot wounds in an ambush attack in a housing estate in Estepona.
The murder was immediately thought to be a revenge killing between gangs of drug dealers. The investigation led the police to certain members of this mafia group, and eventually linked them with several murders committed in Spain, more precisely on the Costa del Sol, as well as Holland and Ireland, the Ministry of the Interior revealed yesterday.
The police are continuing to investigate whether the group was involved in other violent deaths of Irish citizens on the Costa del Sol. After Paddy Doyle's murder, three more victims of the same nationality have been killed in southern Spain. In August 2008 Peter M., 39 years old, was shot in a pub in Nueva Andalucía, Marbella. In February 2009, 30-year-old Richard K. was shot repeatedly as he left a bar in Benalmádena. Finally, in April of this year a body of an Irish man who had been reported missing was found in a waste pipe in Mijas. The corpse was so badly burnt that identification was only possible from the serial number of a prosthetic knee found at the scene.
Although the investigation began in 2008 as a result of a revenge killing, it has now been extended to include other illicit activities, such as drug trafficking, weapons and money laundering on a global scale.
Other international connections have been identified in Belgium, Holland, France, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Morocco, South Africa, China, Dubai, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and the United States.
Since 2008, officers of UDEF (Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit) and the Costa del Sol Udyco have traced more than 200 trading companies that have been used to channel funds acquired by the group through illegal business deals.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the majority of the money had been invested into the real estate industry on the Costa del Sol and various other locations worldwide. In Brazil this criminal network had six tourist complexes and luxury residences. "Thanks to the vast profits made from drug trafficking and the sale of arms, the network had tried to introduce themselves into the sectors of renewable energy, infrastructure, recycling, telecommunications and recreational activities", the Ministry revealed in a press release.
The police investigation has highlighted a particular Irish family as leader of the organisation. As well as maintaining control over the criminal underworld in Ireland, they also have connections with the ringleaders of equivalent groups in the UK. For several years they were even in control of drug trafficking in Holland and Spain, and exercised a great deal of authority over mafia members on the Costa del Sol.
Several members of the family have been settled on the Malaga coastline for some time, from which point they supposedly directed their operations. Among them is Christopher K., known as 'Christy', a 53-year-old considered by police to be the head of the network. He was arrested in Estepona yesterday, along with two of his sons.