Spanish police smash huge network importing counterfeit goods and selling them via illegal street vendors

Almost 250,000 items have been seized and 39 people have been arrested in several Spanish provinces, including Malaga



Wednesday, 26 July 2023, 13:57


Spain's National Police force, together with customs officials from the Tax Agency, have dismantled a criminal organisation dedicated to the import and sale of counterfeit goods. Almost 250,000 items have been seized and 39 people have been arrested in several Spanish provinces, seven of them in Andalucía. The products were sold to the public through illegal street vendors.

Officers carried out 13 house searches and 22 inspections in warehouses and establishments in different parts of Spain, resulting in 14 arrests in Madrid, four in Seville, 15 in Girona, three in Malaga (one of them in Marbella) and another three in Tenerife.

The investigation was initiated after learning of the existence of a hierarchical criminal organisation made up of Senegalese nationals based in Spain, who were allegedly involved in the import and sale of counterfeit goods.

According to police reports, the network allegedly sold counterfeit clothing, footwear, jewellery and leather goods of their own creation or imported. On occasions, the articles were marked with the logo of certain brands, thus violating the industrial property rights of registered trademarks.

Since at least 2016

According to police, those investigated had been operating since at least 2016 and had a pyramid structure and a clear distribution of tasks among its members. In addition, they were constantly modifying their modus operandi to avoid detection by changing the methods of payment, the routes of entry of the goods and their distribution.

At the top of the network was a woman who was in charge of the direction and management, and who travelled, together with third parties, to the supplier countries to import the counterfeit products. In turn, she was in charge of receiving most of the profits.

When the articles arrived in Spain, they were distributed throughout the country using different logistic points or parcel companies through so-called 'relevant sellers' or 'mailboxes', which were supervised by a distribution manager who was in charge of receiving the instructions, according to the police.

Finally, the street sellers, mostly African citizens in an irregular situation with scarce economic resources, were dedicated to selling the products. They were in charge of handing part of the profit obtained over to third parties who then forwarded it to the top levels of the organisation.

Money transfer and money laundering

Among the methods used for these money transfers were direct bank transfers or deposits to the account from different points in Spain, which were sent to the localities where the leaders of the organisation lived. The other method used was by sending parcels or postal correspondence to the addresses of the leaders.

On the other hand, the channels used to launder the illegal profits obtained were mainly two: one, the creation of businesses with a legal appearance, such as restaurants; and the other, the sending of money to their country of origin, Senegal, either through 'mules' or parcels.

In order to maximise security measures, the organisation modified its modus operandi on a regular basis by changing the entry routes of the counterfeit goods. For example, if one entry into the European Union was via the United Kingdom, the subsequent route was China-Germany-Spain, as well as the methods of payment and distribution of the goods.

This dynamic setup, according to the police, not only made investigations difficult, but also showed the "great sophistication" of the criminal network.

The operation focused on those members belonging to the upper or intermediate levels of the organisation, whose wealth did not correspond to their declared income or to their stated work reports, since almost none of them received income and those that did were not proportional to the income registered in their accounts.

The 39 people arrested are being investigated for the alleged crimes of criminal organisation, against industrial property, money laundering, smuggling and infringement of the foreign nationals Act.

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