Spain smashes US drug money laundering scheme

27th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spanish authorities have smashed a ring which laundered 85 million dollars earned through drug sales in the United States, seized 22 luxury homes and detained three people, the government said Monday.

Assets worth over 12 million euros (15.7 million dollars) were seized in the operation, the economy ministry said in a statement.

The houses were located in the southern regions of Granada, Malaga and Murcia along the Mediterranean coast, it said, adding that the other seized items included 43 bank accounts, four horses, six cars, watches and jewellery.

Spanish tax office officials began their investigation in March 2009 after detecting "abnormal" real estate purchases and financial operations by Spanish and British nationals.

The authorities discovered that the money came from the United States and several tax havens and that the deals were carried out by people "involved in drug trafficking, their family members or figureheads", the statement said.

"In reality it was the profits obtained by a criminal organisation through the illegal sale of hydrocodone, a derivative of opium, in the United States, through the Internet and in various locations," it added.

The group sold over 50 million hydrocodone pills, which is often used as a pain reliever or cough suppressant, for a profit of 85 million dollars between 2003 and 2007, the economy ministry said.

The three arrested are the main figurehead of the group, his lawyer and the man responsible for the sale of the drugs in the United States, it added.

© 2010 AFP

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