Spanish Police Say Ukrainian Refugees Used in Massive Illegal Tobacco Operation

Tobacco worth more than €37 million has been seized in an operation to dismantle a contraband tobacco operation, Spanish police said, adding that Ukrainian refugees were “crammed” into facilities and working long days for the alleged criminals.

The Guardia Civil said more than 3.5 million packets of tobacco and 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of tobacco leaves were seized during Operation FATACA.

The operation started in 2021, where a clandestine tobacco factory was dismantled inside a chicken shed near Seville, the Guardia Civil said.

This bust led the Guardia Civil to another European tobacco-smuggling organization, which it said used Ukrainians displaced by war to work in factories and produce upwards of 540,000 packs of cigarettes per day.

Three such factories were located in Alfaro, Los Corrales, and Enquera, with a fourth planned to open in Osuna, according to the Guardia Civil.

The organization also imported undeclared tobacco for resale without paying relevant taxes, the Guardia Civil said.

Alongside 27 arrests, seven properties and 25 vehicles were seized by the Guardia Civil and Europol.

In total, 24 raids were carried out, the Guardia Civil said. Credit: Guardia Civil via Storyful