The warehouse where the clandestine tobacco factory was hidden. Jesús Andrade
Spain's biggest illegal tobacco factory raided and shut down

Spain's biggest illegal tobacco factory raided and shut down

Crime ·

National Police seized more than 20 million euros, machinery, millions of cigarette packets and arrested four people

David González

Thursday, 1 June 2023, 09:44


The trail began in Madrid, where the detection of fake cigarette packets almost identical to the originals caught the attention of the National Police. On the outside, they looked the same, but everything about them was fake.

The force's economic and fiscal crime unit (UDEF) joined the investigation which led to a warehouse on an industrial estate in Nanclares de la Oca, nine kilometres from Vitoria in the Basque Country. From the outside, it looked like just another company. However, according to police sources, its interior was believed to be where the counterfeit cigarette packets were produced.

After many hours of telephone tapping and surveillance of suspicious vehicles, it was concluded that there was enough evidence to enter the warehouse with judicial authorisation.

In the early hours of Tuesday 23 May, almost a hundred National Police officers and personnel from Spain's tax agency arrived at the warehouse. "It was unbelievable. It was full of vans, patrol cars and undercover vehicles," said workers at the industrial estate.

The unit concealed a clandestine tobacco factory. Some hours later it was confirmed that it was the largest detected in Spain, at least in the last six years. At the same time, another raid was carried out in another warehouse in Gipuzkoa.

There were four people in the Nanclares de Oca building. Two are considered to be responsible for the fraudulent business. The other individuals are said to be the operators in charge of the manufacture of the cigarettes, and of the cigarette packets.

A search of the property exceeded all expectations. In total, 106 tonnes of tobacco were seized, in both cut and leaf form. There were also dozens of pallets stacked with filters and cartons of at least half a dozen brands of legal tobacco. Initial estimates put the value of the confiscated goods and equipment at more than 20 million euros.

After spending two nights at the National Police station in Betoño, the four suspects were brought before the courts on Thursday 25 May. A Vitoria court charged the two 'workers' who were released on bail. Both are from Ukraine and had their passports taken away.

The alleged bosses of the factory were remanded in custody in Zaballa prison. Police sources say that the investigation "is still open". Those imprisoned could face charges of smuggling and crimes against industrial property which, in addition to prison sentences, could involve multi-million euro fines.


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