Spain catches tobacco gang exploiting Ukrainian refugees

Spanish Police have managed to seize a gang running a tobacco business in areas where Ukrainian refugees are residing. According to the Police of Spain, this gang had set up three factories across these regions to exploit the struggles of the refugee Ukrainian families. The Ukrainian refugees were forced to work at these factories under significantly poor work conditions. The Spanish Police said that these factories had a production volume of over half a million cigarette packs per day. In total, 27 people have been arrested so far for their involvement in the matter. This gang was importing illegal tobacco into the country and using it to manufacture cheap quality counterfeit cigarettes. These cigarettes were then sold in the internal markets or exported out of the country to other regions. 

When the war broke out between Russia and Ukraine in February of last year, many Ukrainians fled to other countries to secure a safe place. Due to the fear of war and the urgency of the situation, many Ukrainians fled to other countries illegally. According to the data published by the United Nations, there are almost eight million Ukrainians who fled their country when Russia attacked Ukraine. Almost all the Ukrainians who left the country due to war fled to nearby European countries. The UN also reported that there are around 160,000 Ukrainian refugees that are registered and legally living in Spain. But according to these recent findings, it is clear that the number is potentially far from the actual number. Many Ukrainian families working at these factories mostly entered the country by illegal means. These families did not have any hope of procuring the necessities of human lives such as shelter, food, and healthcare. The supposed gang exploited the struggles of the Ukrainian refugees and offered them shelter at their illegal factories. The Police said that the Ukrainian families were living at these factories in extremely difficult situations, often stuffed in tight locations because of the lack of room. These families choose to live in such horrible conditions because of fear of getting caught and then being forced to leave the country. 

The gang which operated these factories forced refugee families to work for long hours to reach such a high production volume for only three factories. This allowed the operating parties to profit exponentially, allowing them to further scale up their operations through money laundering and using it for illegally smuggling higher quantities of tobacco. After getting the information citing these illegal operations, the Spanish Police searched over twenty different homes, manufacturing plants, shops, etc. related to the suspected names. Through this search, the Spanish Police managed to acquire tobacco products worth $41 million. The bust operation by the Spanish Police started in 2021 when the world was still battling the pandemic. Spain was one of the worst-hit countries in the world in terms of COVID-19. Once the war broke out, the gang found an additional workforce in the form of illegal Ukrainian refugees. According to the Spanish Police, the gang was also working on adding more products to the illegal market, such as the cultivation of marijuana.