Europol arrests ‘high-value target’ in Malaga — Analysis

The suspect, believed to be linked to a Dubai-based criminal clan, had allegedly laundered over €200 million

Europol and Spanish police detained “one of Europe’s biggest money launderers,” who apparently worked for an international drug cartel, during a joint operation, the law enforcement agency said on Thursday.

According to Europol, the suspect, who is believed to have moved more than €200 million ($199 million) in illicit cash, was arrested on September 12 in the Spanish city of Malaga as part of an operation led by the Spanish Guardia Civil.

Although the agency did not disclose the identity of what it called a “high-value target,” an AFP source said it was John Francis Morrissey, 62, an associate of the Kinahan Organised Crime Group. According to the US authorities, this Dubai-based criminal clan is known for smuggling “The threat of deadly drugs, such as cocaine, is to Europe and the whole licit economy. Its role in laundering international money is also a concern.”

In the statement, he said that two other accomplices were also arrested by police. There have been 11 raids in Spain and Britain.

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Europol notes the fact that the suspect and his accomplices were obtaining large sums of money from criminal organisations in order to then transport it to criminal gangs elsewhere. According to Europol, these would-be criminals transferred money through the hawala underground bank system. It works only face-to-face and has no physical money.

To disguise the source of their income, the suspects created a brand of vodka promoted in nightclubs and restaurants in Malaga’s environs, as well as a number of shell companies to conceal the true identity of people engaged in money laundering, Europol says.

The investigation, according to the statement, kicked off late last year when the Spanish police seized 200kg of cocaine and €500,000 stored in vehicles with hidden compartments that were owned by the criminal organization.

After the US Treasury in April sanctioned top Kinahan clan members to stop their financial operations, the Treasury also offered a $5million reward for any information that leads to the arrest or conviction.

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