Everything appeared to be legal and above board, but when the National Police began to investigate a ‘gestoría’ in Malaga they discovered it had become the operational base of a criminal gang who specialised in faking documents. They are accused of providing their clients, most of whom were Chinese nationals living in Malaga province, with fake residence permits and other certificates.
Officers have spent two years on this investigation and have now arrested 15 people for offences against foreign citizens, forging documents, being members of a criminal organisation and money laundering. They appear to have been making good money from their activities, as the police have also seized cash, property and bank accounts worth 1.7 million euros.
The investigation began in May 2019 when a Chinese woman was arrested after presenting false documentation to the authorities. That was when the trail led the police to a gestoría in Malaga city which had been used by several people of the same nationality to obtain their residence permits. They came to the conclusion that the gang were providing clients with fake ‘padrón’ certificates to show that they were registered at the town hall and false Social Security registrations, so they could apply for their residence permits.
The police also found cases where people had applied for official residence through the family reunification scheme, presenting fake documents which they claimed had been certified by a notary in China to prove their relationships.
The investigators then learned that many of the beneficiaries did not even live in the province and only came to Malaga briefly when the formalities required it, before returning to their habitual residence elsewhere in the country.
As part of ‘Operation Panda’, two searches were carried out at homes in Torremolinos as well as the gestoría in Malaga. The officers found 47,000 euros, 17,300 dollars and 4,120 yen in cash as well as computers, mobile phones and a large quantity of documentation relevant to the case. They also took legal proceedings to block a bank account containing 35,000 euros and eight properties valued at 1.6 million euros.