They did not have branches or advertise, but they functioned practically like a bank that offered its services to carry out money transfers or finance operations. Of course, for some very particular clients: criminal organizations, mostly dedicated to drug trafficking. The Central Operative Unit (UCO) of the Civil Guard has arrested three citizens of Russian, Filipino and Kazakh origin, all of them nationalized Germans, who had created a complex financial network from Malaga that moved 5 million euros in a single day from other criminal groups. The plot charged these for their services a percentage of the money that could reach up to 5% of the amount, depending on the risk of the operation, the amount and the trust generated by the client. This “parallel bank” to the legal circuit, as the investigators describe it, operated mainly in Spain and Germany, but it is being investigated whether it had connections with other countries, mainly Turkey and Dubai.
Operation Razmennik (“money changer” in Russian, so named because the alleged ringleader of the plot was originally from Russia) began at the beginning of the years within the investigations opened by the Department of Economic Crime of UCO to locate this type of financial structures. used by criminal organizations, on the rise in the last two years, according to Civil Guard sources. One of these police efforts allowed detecting the presence in the province of Malaga of those now arrested, all of them wanted by the German justice system since 2020 for money laundering and drug trafficking, who at first were considered simple intermediaries of a larger organization, but of those who were later found to be the alleged managers of one of these banks for criminals.
The investigations, in which the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) of Germany and the EU police agency Europol have collaborated, revealed that the plot offered other criminal organizations to discreetly and safely channel large amounts of cash. both for money laundering and to finance drug purchase or arms trafficking operations in Spain and other European countries. For both types of transactions, the scheme used the system known as “compensation”, which allows money to be moved without physically moving it, which avoids risks and, moreover, leaves no trace.
The contacts between the plot and its clients were always made through instant messaging applications that automatically encrypt the messages. In that exchange, the quantity, conditions and place of delivery were fixed. Then, a member of the plot went to the agreed point, usually uncrowded areas such as vacant lots or alleys in the province of Malaga. Once there, and after mutually identifying each other by means of a code ―sometimes it was a photo of the place chosen for the appointment and that the network had sent to the client by mobile message―, the transaction was made in a matter of seconds with the money hidden in a plastic bag. “They didn’t stop to count the money. The trust between the plot and its clients was key to the operation of the system”, highlight sources close to the investigation, who add that the system had “a brutal dynamism; they were constantly operating.”
During the monitoring, the agents verified that the three detainees adopted important security measures. To sleep, they usually used tourist accommodation that they rented for a few nights and even just one. To do this, they used Internet portals specialized in this type of reservation and identified themselves with the false Bulgarian and German documents they had. “In the five days prior to their arrest, they slept in five different places,” Civil Guard sources point out as an example. To guarantee this mobility, they carried little luggage ―“what would fit in a backpack”―, which, however, was never lacking in state-of-the-art computer equipment and mobile phones. “The vehicles in which they moved were also for rent and they changed them almost daily,” add these sources, who add that this did not prevent them from enjoying a high standard of living that included going to luxury restaurants.
At the time of the arrest ―produced last April, although the Ministry of the Interior has not reported on it until this Thursday―, the three alleged members of the network seized a little more than 100,000 euros in cash, as well as machines for count money, computer and telephony equipment, and documentation both on computer and on paper. According to sources close to the investigation, the latter includes entries with part of the economic transactions that the plot carried out, including the 5 million euros that this parallel bank managed to move in a single day to facilitate its laundering to a criminal organization that he had come to her as a client. For that single movement they had pocketed 250,000 euros.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.