On 21 September 2022, Europol supported the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) and the Spanish Regional Catalan Police (Mossos d’Esquadra) to dismantle an organised crime group involved in the production and distribution of counterfeit euro banknotes. The police intervention also involved the Bank of Spain’s Investigation Brigade, support units from the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial) and agents from the Anti-Riot Units (Unidades de Intervención Policial) to facilitate access and secure the area. Canine units were also deployed to detect counterfeit banknotes.
The action day led to:
9 location searches in Alicante, Barcelona, Malaga and Valencia;
12 persons arrested;
one clandestine print shop dismantled;
the following seizures: EUR 4.3 million in high-quality fake 500 euro banknotes and a large amount of equipment (several printing presses, an exposure unit, a hot stamping machine, a paper guillotine and raw materials).
The counterfeiters were using top-end technology to produce counterfeit euro bills, in what are considered to be some of the most sophisticated fakes ever detected in the EU. The advanced technological design and the good condition of the forgeries make these the most dangerous counterfeits produced in the EU in recent years. Investigators from the Bank of Spain’s Investigation Brigade identified the main suspect behind the print shop as an individual already known by authorities detained for similar criminal activities in 2009. Although these counterfeit bills were of higher quality, they had similar features to counterfeits produced in 2009. This is what led authorities to link the counterfeits to the same suspect.
In 2021, the Spanish Regional Catalan Police found a bag with about EUR 4 million in fake 500 euro bills. The Analysis Centre of the Bank of Spain confirmed that the fakes were the same as the ones from the most recent batch of counterfeits. The investigators estimate that in as little as three months’ time, the criminal network printed more than EUR 8 million in this clandestine print shop, which was dismantled in September. The members of the criminal network had different functions, from supplying raw materials, mainly from China, to managing the printing equipment. The fake money was used for different criminal activities including drug trafficking.
Europol facilitated the information exchange, and financed and coordinated a number of operational activities. Europol also provided analytical support identifying the country in which the banknotes were distributed. During the action day, Europol deployed an expert to Spain to offer technical support and cross-checked operational information against Europol’s databases and the systems of the European Central Bank.