One of the scenes of Tuesday's operation. | Alejandro Sepúlveda


The scale of Tuesday's police operation in Mallorca against money laundering was such that agents from the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Italy's Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate were involved.

Operation Casino was directed at a powerful mafia, based in Mallorca, which has laundered millions of euros over two decades - the proceeds from drug trafficking and prostitution. The Guardia Civil's intelligence service has been investigating this organisation since 2018, its head figure said to be a Kosovar Albanian who came to Mallorca in 1999. Identified as B.O., he has a mansion in Camp de Mar.

The origins of the organisation date back to the aftermath of the Kosovo War in 1999, which was when the gang began to create drug trafficking and prostitution networks throughout Europe. It became powerful in the San Pauli district of Hamburg and in Amsterdam's red light district. The UK, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Croatia and Spain all became centres of operation.

Investigators focused on Mallorca, as there was evidence of huge amounts of money being laundered on the island - luxury villas, top-of-the-range cars, art collections, hotels and restaurants. Palma and Calvia were the favoured municipalities.

The investigations were far from straightforward. Encrypted communications were used, and the members are described as being highly professional. They often travelled to Dubai, Mexico and Colombia and exported large amounts of cocaine from Latin America to Europe.

On Tuesday, Operation Casino was launched simultaneously in Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Croatia and the UK. A total of 80 searches of houses and businesses were carried out and 45 arrests were made; some 600 police officers were deployed. In Mallorca specifically, there were 15 searches of hotels, restaurants, homes and other addresses. There were raids in Can Valero, La Lonja, S'Aigo Dolça, Puerto Portals, Portals Nous, Camp de Mar and Santa Ponsa. The police searched the BO Hotel in Palma and the Ritzi restaurants in Palma Puerto Portals. Eight people were arrested.

Officers used sniffer dogs to search for money and cocaine. They seized paintings, large sums of cash, cars, watches and jewellery. The volume of computer material is such that study of this will last months. There are also bitcoins. Significant investments are said to have been made in cryptocurrencies.

Another line of business was casinos, hence the name of the operation, which is not expected to lead to further arrests as all the suspects had been under surveillance for some time and had no chance to escape.