Police bust suspected Chinese-run fraud operation in Spain

Story highlights

  • Spanish Interior Ministry says more than 80 people arrested, including well-known figures
  • Ring generated several hundred million dollars in proceeds in recent years, ministry says
  • Arrests were made and evidence seized in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities
  • The ring also is accused of prostitution and human trafficking

A suspected Chinese-run money-laundering and tax fraud operation in Spain that generated several hundred million dollars in proceeds in recent years was busted Tuesday, with more than 80 arrests, the Spanish Interior Ministry said.

Most of the suspects are Chinese, including a well-known figure who lived in a luxury development in Madrid. They also include a Spanish male porn star, whose production company is suspected of issuing false invoices to help launder funds, the ministry said.

Police moved in early Tuesday to make arrests and seize evidence in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities. A center of the operations was suspected to be in an industrial zone in the Madrid suburb or Fuenlabrada, where a number of wholesale businesses sell all types of imported Chinese goods.

The system was based on importing large quantities of Chinese goods to Spain and declaring customs on only a fraction of them, so that the merchandise ended up in Chinese-run retail shops in neighborhoods across the country. Profits were taken that then needed to be laundered, the ministry said.

A Spanish town councilman from Fuenlabrada also was arrested, suspected of issuing licenses in exchange for payments.

The ring was suspected of laundering 200 million to 300 million euros annually in recent years. Police began investigating two years ago.

Police found containers in ships, cars and vans that held large sums of cash.

The ring also is accused of branching out into other criminal activities, including prostitution and human trafficking.

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.