Blanked out glasses. / cnp

Watch as police raid illegal tobacco factory, exporting cigarettes to UK, where workers were treated like slaves

Cigarettes were being produced 24 hours a day at the warehouse on an industrial estate in Malaga and secrecy was so great that the workers had no idea where it was

IRENE QUIRANTE MALAGA.

Police have discovered an illegal tobacco factory on El Viso industrial estate in Malaga and have arrested ten people.

Suspicions were first aroused because the police noticed that although there was no sign outside the industrial unit and it seemed to be unoccupied, the building had been soundproofed and people sometimes came and went at night.

When officers went in to investigate and climbed up to the first floor they found piles of chopped tobacco all over the ground, and upstairs were beds where the workers slept. They were being kept in conditions of semi-slavery: their mobile phones and passports had been taken off them and they were expected to produce cigarettes 24 hours a day. They were well paid: they received about 5,000 euros a month, and were occasionally taken out to a brothel as a reward for productivity but when outside they had to wear sunglasses with the lenses blanked out so they could not see anything and had no idea where they were.

Nine of those arrested were workers, all from Eastern Europe, and the tenth was the foreman who kept them in line.

Transported to UK

The gang behind this illegal factory are believed to have brought the tobacco in bulk to Malaga from Bulgaria, hidden in lorries and undeclared. Other warehouses in Spain were also being used for production or distribution, and the cigarettes were mainly transported for sale in the UK.

The police confiscated 16 tonnes of chopped tobacco, 6,421 cartons of cigarettes, 15 boxes of defective cigarettes, 14 boxes of cardboard of different types, 14 pallets of acetate filters and two pallets of paper, among other items.

Those arrested have been charged with membership of a criminal organisation, public health offences, contravening industrial property rights and contraband.