l The Spanish ‘Agencia Tributaria' (the equivalent of the UK's Inland Revenue) has confirmed that a total of 19 people have been arrested, five of them in Galicia, as part of operation “Algarrobo”, which has broken up one of Spain's most active gangs of cigarette traffickers.

The leader of the gang, Manuel Gulías, a veteran dealer in contraband tobacco, has been confirmed as one of those under arrest. He was investigated back in the 1990s for his alleged involvement in the illegal importation of tobacco from neighbouring Andorra.

During the operation, 450'000 packets of contraband cigarettes, with a street value of some 1.8 million euros, were confiscated from a warehouse in Griñón, Madrid.

Five arrests were made in Galicia, one in Santiago de Compostela, three in Silleda (Pontevedra) and another one in Vigo. The remaining 13 members of the gang were arrested in Madrid and Seseña (Toledo).

Five private properties have been searched - three in Silleda, two in Madrid and one in Santiago de Compostela, and five offices, one in the Galician capital, two in Madrid, one in Fuenlabrada and one in Barajas.

Operation “Algarrobo” is the result of a lengthy investigation, which came to a head on January 13th, when suspicions were raised over a container from Dubai, which allegedly unloaded “artificial flowers” in the port of Málaga. Officers from the Spanish tax agency followed the shipment to a warehouse in Griñón, where nine people awaiting the shipment of the ‘Yesmoke' cigarettes were subsequently arrested.

The authorities believe that their operation has dismantled the gang “on all levels” - its leaders, those responsible for negotiating the purchase of the illegal merchandise, those responsible for hiding the cigarettes from customs officials, those responsible for transporting the merchandise and the distributors at various points of sale.


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