Police in Spain bust gang exploiting Ukrainian refugees in illegal tobacco factories

 (Guardia Civil/Europol)
(Guardia Civil/Europol)

A gang in Spain were exploiting Ukrainian refugees to work in illegal tobacco factories, police have alleged.

The authorities say they have broken up the illegal enterprise with operations found in three regions. Twenty seven people have been arrested.

The gang is alleged to have smuggled large quantities of tobacco turned into counterfeit cigarettes.

The factories could make more than half a million cigarette packs daily, which were sold across Spain and abroad.

Police said the Ukrainians were living “crammed” into prefabricated shelters within the factories.

They were being made to work long hours and not allowed to leave, in order to avoid detection as some had entered Spain illegaly in the wake of the Russian invasion last spring.

The authorities seized tobacco products worth €37.5m (£33m), luxury vehicles, jewellery and large quantities of cash during their raid. More than 20 homes, industrial buildings and shops were searched.

The investigation got assistance from the European policing agency Europol.

According to the United Nations, there are nearly eight million recorded Ukrainian refugees across Europe, who fled Russia’s February 2022 invasion. More than 160,000 have been registered in Spain.