JUAN CANO / ÁLVARO FRÍAS
Saturday, 29 February 2020, 23:51
The underground cigarette factory discovered by the Guardia Civil on an estate in Monda leaves behind it a trail of crossing life stories. You only have to dig a little - in the most literal sense of the expression - to find them. The saddest side, the hardest of all, is that of the six Ukrainian workers, who flew into Malaga Airport from their homeland and, as soon as they set foot on Spanish soil, were whisked off in a van to the estate which at first sight appeared to be attractive and well-kept riding stables.
From that moment, they did not see the sun again for a month. They descended the 14 rungs of the ladder in the secret bunker, and the door above their heads was slammed closed and weighted down with a heavy container, shutting off all natural light. It very nearly became their gravestone.
The Ukrainians, all former workers in tobacco factories, knew exactly how to use the old packaging machine which had been dismantled in Poland and bought by the organisation on the black market. They ate and slept in the same bunker, ventilated only by a closed circuit of air which worked with a generator fuelled by diesel.
On the day of the police operation, nobody refuelled the generator because the police had raided at 5am and arrested the heads of the organisation. The six 'moles' were about to suffocating to death. When the Guardia Civil finally found the bunker and led them out, they gasped desperately for air, relieved to be free and alive, even though they were wearing handcuffs.
The Guardia Civil say the head of the criminal organisation is Daniel Dobbs, a 31-year-old British man normally known as 'Dobbo'. In 2014, he was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in jail in the UK after being arrested with another four men when a drugs laboratory was discovered in Doncaster. The police seized about two million pounds worth of amphetamines and ingredients to produce narcotic substances worth another 2.3 million.
The young Brit was serving his sentence at the Hatfield Lakes open prison in South Yorkshire. On 2 November 2018 he failed to return from temporary leave.
In March last year the UK's National Crime Agency released his photo and asked the public to help find him. They suspected that he had gone to Spain and was using a false name - and they were right. He was known here as Clayton James Wathen, and was living a quiet life in a comfortable sixth-floor apartment in the Soho district of Malaga, with views over the port.
From there, he used the drainpipe to climb down six storeys, nearly 18 metres, to ground level, where there was the entry to a hotel. The Guardia Civil officers took less time to find him there than they did to discover the bunker in Monda. He was hiding behind a pile of frying pans.
The authorities say he was working with another British man, Andrew George C., who was living with his family in a villa he was renting for 10,000 euros a month. He is said to have bought a warehouse on a Malaga industrial estate, which was on sale for one million euros. He paid cash for it.
'Dobbo', who is considered one of the heads of the group, had been sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in jail in the UK after being caught with four others running an illegal drugs laboratory in Doncaster.
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