Police in Spain have dismantled an organised criminal gang that impregnated cocaine into plastic pellets before smuggling them to three specialist laboratories in Madrid and Toledo where the drugs were extracted.
Investigators arrested 12 people on suspicion of running what police described as the largest-ever cocaine processing operation uncovered in Spain to date.
In a statement, Spain’s national police force said the gang, which was headed up by grandparents and parents from the same family, injected cocaine into plastic products in Colombia to make it less likely that the drugs would be detected by customs officers while it was being shipped to Spain.
It is thought that the organisation’s main processing laboratory was capable producing half a tonne of cocaine every month, with the other two facilities pumping out smaller but still significant quantities.
Raids on the gang’s properties that resulted in the detention of the suspects also saw police seize 30kgs of cocaine paste, 1kg of cocaine powder, 600kgs of pellets impregnated with cocaine, 3,000 litres of chemical products used during the extraction process, and a selection of tools including hydraulic presses, moulds and blotting paper.
Among those held by police were three Colombian experts on extracting cocaine from plastics who had been brought to Spain to work at the organisation’s processing facilities round the clock for a period of 10 days.
The head of the gang was described by detectives as being a Colombian man who was living in a luxury villa on the outskirts of Madrid.
An investigation into the network’s activities was launched at the end of last year when police monitoring a separate organised crime gang observed suspects handling suspicious items linked to the cocaine processing conspiracy.
News of the operation highlights the lengths to which South American drug cartels will go to ensure that their product reaches lucrative markets such as Europe.
Earlier this week, Mexican authorities revealed that a Japanese drugs mule who had swallowed nearly 250 packages of cocaine had died on a flight from Bogota in Colombia to Tokyo after at least one of them burst.
In September of last year, a Venezuelan vet who was extradited to the US from Spain pleaded guilty to turning puppies into drug mules by sewing containers filled with liquid heroin inside their bodies for a Colombian trafficking gang, which would kill the canines while the drugs were being extracted from their bellies.
A quarter of all CDs ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in US are counterfeit, RIAA warns
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has claimed that 25% of all CDs “fulfilled by Amazon” in the US are counterfeit.
A recent sample purchase programme conducted by the RIAA, which represents major labels that are responsible for the creation, manufacture, distribution or sale of 85% of all legitimately recorded music produced in the US, also found that 100% of new “high-quality box sets offered for sale through eBay or AliExpress in the US were counterfeit”.
The exercise revealed that 11% of new CDs offered for sale on Amazon were fake, and 16% of new CDs sold on eBay were bogus.
Publishing the findings of its sample purchase programme, the RIAA said it had also observed the sale of fake “best of” or “greatest hits” CDs or vinyl that purport to be from major record label artists on these platforms, even when the labels in question had never released such albums.
The association said it continues to see a high number of incidents in which its members branding has been used without permission on multiple ecommerce platforms, including Amazon, eBay, Redbubble and Bonanza.
“These infringements not only undermine revenues from legitimate sources to music creators and owners, they also harm the reputation and goodwill associated with the artists, brands or logos at issue,” the RIAA said.
“This harm is exacerbated by limited and inconsistent enforcement by online third-party marketplaces and other intermediaries to address counterfeit listings and sellers of counterfeit products.”
Responding to the RIAA’s findings in a statement given to Digital Music News, Amazon said: “Our customers expect that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store—either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers—they will receive authentic products.
“Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and we invest heavily in both funds and company energy to ensure our policy is followed.”
Last month, research conducted by anti-piracy and counterfeit protection firm Red Points revealed that the number of items buyers believe to be fake sold on Amazon rises by a third during the company’s annual Prime Day event.
Earlier in July, Amazon announced the expansion of its flagship anti-counterfeiting Transparency programme to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, India and Canada.
First launched in the US back in March 2017, the initiative allows companies to apply unique T-shaped QR-style codes to their products, which can be used by customers, brands, Amazon and other participants in the supply chain to authenticate items being offered for sale.
Canadian police target young drivers recruited by gangs to deliver drugs
Police in the Canadian province of British Columbia have arrested three teenagers in a crackdown on street-level gang activity and drug dealing.
Officers from the Abbotsford Police Gang Crime Unit (GCU) and the Abbotsford Police Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) last week detained two 18-year-olds and one 19-year-old on suspicion of drug offences after police searches resulted in the discovery pre-packaged deals of synthetic opioid fentanyl and crack cocaine along with CA$1,500 ($1,122) in cash and a number of mobile phones.
Detectives taking part in the operation also impounded a 2016 Jeep Wrangler that is said to have been used by the suspects to deliver the drugs they are alleged to have been selling.
Police said the arrests were carried out with the assistance of a patrol division, an emergency response team and sniffer dogs.
The operation was launched after police in the region discovered that local gang members were increasingly attempting to recruit young people who had recently learned to drive.
Sergeant Maitland Smith, of Abbotsford Police’s GCU, said in a statement: “We are currently seeing a trend in Abbotsford evolving around the recruitment of youth into gangs, and more specifically ‘new’ drivers.
“More established street-level drug dealers are aware that the police are seizing vehicles and assets upon being arrested; so they are recruiting younger drivers to chauffeur them as they conduct their drug trafficking business.
“In most cases, these young, new drivers are using vehicles registered to their parents to drive the dealers around with the promise that they will get a share of the profit at the end of the day.”
Smith went on to explain that acting as a driver for drug dealers is a serious offence that could result in arrest and prosecution, regardless of whether young car owners have handled illicit substances or not.
He also warned that any vehicle that police believe has been used to facilitate the sale of illegal drugs could be seized, even if the car is officially registered to a young person’s parents.
Abbotsford Police warned young people they could be putting themselves, their friends and their relatives at risk if they become involved in drug dealing or other forms of organised crime, noting that dozens of young adults have been shot dead across the region over recent years.
LAX border officials seize fake luxury goods worth $3.5 million smuggled into US from Hong Kong
Customs officers working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have confiscated thousands of luxury items that would have had an estimated retail value of nearly $3.5 million had they been genuine.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) investigators working at the airport found the haul among air cargo that had been brought into the country from Hong Kong, which is a major source of counterfeit and pirated products globally.
The massive shipment of fake items included nearly 1,250 counterfeit Gucci belts, 678 pairs of counterfeit Nike shoes, more than 530 counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags, 500 counterfeit Samsung adaptors, over 500 counterfeit Gucci waist pack belts, 230 counterfeit Hermes handbags, 192 counterfeit Casio Shock watches, 144 counterfeit Ferragamo belts, 100 counterfeit Versace belts, and 119 counterfeit Fendi shorts.
Carlos Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles, commented: “CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive intellectual property rights enforcement programme.
“These seizures demonstrate the high level of skill and vigilance of our officers and import specialists.”
In a statement, CBP said the sheer size of the illicit shipment indicated the huge amount of profit that can be made by importing counterfeit goods into the US, and went on to warn consumers that fake items such as these are often sold through illegitimate websites and underground retail outlets.
Donald Kusser, CBP Port Director at LAX, said: “The American public should be aware that buying a counterfeit product is a lose-lose proposition, because the money they paid often funds criminal enterprises.
“In addition, buyers get a substandard low-quality product, containing unknown chemicals and likely produced under inhumane conditions.”
In a report published back in March, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office revealed that pirated and counterfeit goods had grown to account for 3.3% of all global trade, noting that the majority of the fake goods seized across the globe throughout 2016 were said to have originated from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Hong Kong has also come under fire for the role it plays in the global illicit trade in smuggled wildlife products, with a coalition of local NGOs warning in January that the region plays a wildly disproportionate role in wildlife crime thanks largely to its close proximity to mainland China.
Amanda Witfort, a professor at Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Law and one of the study’s authors, said at the time: “Wildlife crime in Hong Kong remains under-policed and under-investigated. Wildlife smuggling is not regarded as organised and serious crime, under Hong Kong law.”
- Why drug trafficking cartels favour smuggling their illicit cargo in consignments of fruit
- A quarter of all CDs ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in US are counterfeit, RIAA warns
- Canadian police target young drivers recruited by gangs to deliver drugs
- LAX border officials seize fake luxury goods worth $3.5 million smuggled into US from Hong Kong
- Organised crime police in Australia seize 1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco worth A$1.5 million
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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