Organised crime on the Costa del Sol is again under the spotlight with mafias from six countries said to operate here. Of those groups the British are said to be the most violent. The activities of ‘Pancake the Scouser’, a gang made up of Liverpudlians and Mancunians, has been identified with a number of assassinations related to drug trafficking.
A spokesperson for the National Police organized crime and drugs unit (Udyco) in Málaga stated: “It is an organization of world level dedicated principally to the trafficking of drugs, to selective killings and it has a hierarchy structure amongst its integrated members, all of whom originate from Liverpool and Manchester.”
The Irish are also an important group. One of these gangs was implicated in a shooting at the start of this year. Experts say that they are also dedicated to laundering the proceeds from their activities on the coast.
The Russians have been hit hardest by judicial investigations with major arrests in the Avispa and Troika cases, the latter seeing 24people detained. Their crimes are said to include weapon and drug trafficking with links to the USA, Germany, France and Russia. Their presence on the Costa del Sol is explained by their activities in the property business.
With talk of mafias it is no surprise that the Italians feature heavily – indeed a leader of the Camorra was arrested on Sunday. So too do the Dutch who are accused of being experts in money laundering – seemingly offering this service to other criminal groups. Finally the French are in the top six with gangs from the traditional criminal stronghold of Marseilles being active here.
So why the Costa del Sol? The National Police have identified a number of reasons – the closeness of Gibraltar with its off-shore banking system, the complex nature of the urbanizations which provide good hiding places plus the excellent communications of Málaga to other locations in Europe and the wider world.
However it is not only the police who have been speaking out but also the far left Izquierda Unida party. Two of its leading lights in Málaga province, Antonio Romero and Miguel Díaz, have edited a book on organized crime on the coast – ‘Costa Nostra’.
They have identified 120 mafia gangs spread over 100 nationalities who communicate in some 80 different languages. They have based their report on data supplied by the Spanish Prosecutor General. To the reasons given by the police for the gangs’ location here they have added the closeness of the Morocco hashish market. They say they are also drawn by the idyllic climate, the large tourist market and add they operate in silence using the most advanced technologies.
The IU is convinced that only government action can fight this high level of crime that has found its way in to the town halls of Spain. “The water that maintains these fat fish is in the fiscal paradises and town planning.”
Two interesting facts highlighted in the book are that 76 per cent of the overseas investments in Andalucía come from off-shore financial locations. Also 27 per cent of all the 500 euros notes in the European Union are to be found in Andalucía – these large notes are the preferred means of money laundering.
Whilst the Spanish police and politicians are speaking out on these matters what of the British police – given that some of the major players are from the UK? Scotland Yard told me that there are over 40 police forces in the UK all of whom would operate independently. The Serious Organised Crime Agency - SOCA – which has responsibility for tackling major crime was tight lipped on operational matters but said: “Serious UK criminals who are believed to be hiding out in Spain are the targets of a joint project run by SOCA, Crimestoppers, the British Embassy, and the Spanish Authorities. Since its launch less than three years ago, Operation Captura has arrested half of Britain’s most wanted criminals living in the Costas, some within days of a public appeal. Later this year we’ll be publishing our latest most-wanted list through the British and Spanish media, and we expect more success to follow.”
It has long been presumed that British officers operate undercover on the Costa del Sol with their Spanish colleagues. It is understandable that SOCA would wish to keep their activities under warps. Given that the British gangs operating here do so at a sophisticated level it is safe to assume that whilst our police are watching them – they too are attempting to monitor the movements of the boys and girls in blue.