The Spanish National Police have busted a huge money laundering operation linked to Ireland’s once mighty Kinahan Cartel.
Footage of the raid shows Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) officers counting huge wads of cash and placing a pot-bellied topless man in handcuffs at a property on the Costa del Sol in Malaga Province.
He had been flagged and sanctioned by the United States Department of the Treasury (USDT) in April for facilitating and financing criminal activities by the Kinahan Cartel.
The Kinahan Cartel is an Irish transnational organised crime syndicate believed to be among the world’s largest.
The suspect was identified in Irish media as Irish national John Francis Morrissey, 62. He was reportedly remanded in custody along with another man, while a woman was released on bail.
The crime branch he had headed in Spain had laundered money under the guise of a well-known vodka brand, said police in Spain.
The footage goes on to show two more suspects arrested at a remote garage while officers take apart a number of vehicles in search of secret compartments.
Astonishingly, the crime group managed to launder more than GBP 174 million in little over a year and a half, said Spanish police.
In a statement obtained by the Madrid Metropolitan on 15th September, the Civil Guard said: “The Civil Guard, through what has been dubbed Operation Whitewall, has dismantled the most important international criminal organisation dedicated to money laundering operating in Spain, where, in just over a year and a half, it may have laundered more than EUR 200 million (GBP 174 million) through the well-known ‘Hawala’ method.
“The investigation, carried out by the Malaga-based Organised Crime Team of the Civil Guard’s Central Operational Unit and internationally coordinated by the Judicial Police Technical Unit (UTPJ), began after a series of actions carried out at the beginning of 2021, in which more than 200 kilogrammes (441 lb) of cocaine and nearly EUR 500,000 (GBP 434,000) in cash were seized in the province of Malaga from modified vehicles with sophisticated concealment systems inside.
“The ringleader of the command in Spain engaged in collecting large amounts of cash from criminal organisations operating in our country and delivering it through the so-called ‘Hawala’ method to organised groups from other countries, and vice versa. The investigators were able to corroborate that, during the investigation period, he would have managed to transfer more than EUR 200 million.
“The main members of the organisation in Spain had created a luxury brand of vodka that was marketed at shows, parties and events in nightclubs and restaurants in upmarket areas of the Costa del Sol and presented as a successful drinks brand. This was totally detached from reality, as, according to data from the Tax Agency, the company could not have been supporting the detainees’ standard of living.
“In like manner, they would have founded another company in the United Kingdom dependent on another company incorporated in Gibraltar in order to hide the true identities of the administrators of the companies used to launder capital from the ‘Hawala’ method.”
“One of the members of the criminal organisation, who ran a business buying and selling cars, was in charge of providing vehicles for this criminal group in which he had previously made compartments with sophisticated opening methods so that large amounts of money in cash could not be detected during potential police checks.”
According to the Brussels-based risk management and regulatory compliance company Pideeco: “Hawala can be defined as a money transfer method, which takes place outside the traditional banking system and requires a minimum of two Hawala dealers (or hawaladars) that take care of the ‘transaction’.
“An individual who wants to transfer money to another country gets in contact with a Hawala dealer (dealer A). He gives him/her the money plus a commission and the information of the beneficiary of the funds.
“At this moment, the individual receives a unique code. The dealer contacts (i.e. via phone or fax) a Hawala dealer (dealer B) from the country where he wants to send the money. The dealer B will give the amount of money that the dealer A asked him to give to the designated person, who has to reveal his code in order to prove that it is him/her the receiver of the money.”
The Civil Guard continued: “Globally, Operation Whitewall has resulted in the arrest of three people in Spain and one in England, with 11 searches carried out in both countries.
“The main detainee was listed as an HVT (High Value Target) for Europol, with the Civil Guard counting on the collaboration of the British NCA, the American DEA, the Dutch Politei, the Irish Garda, and a mobile office of Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) to carry out the operation in our country.
“Several vehicles with interior compartments, cash, abundant documentation, and electronic devices, were seized. They are of great interest to the investigation, which is why the operation remains open, with new arrests not ruled out.”