Spanish police announced on November 12 that they had led raids against criminals trafficking in protected species. Hundreds of reptiles and a number of weapons, with a total value of around €800,000, were seized in the raids, and 21 people arrested.
The Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) was supported by Europol in the operation, which “led to the dismantling of a large organized crime group involved in wildlife trafficking, document fraud, smuggling and money laundering”, according to Europol.
Law enforcement agencies from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden were also involved, Europol said.
“The suspects smuggled reptiles from Australia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and the Middle East,” the agency said.
“The criminal group used a group of couriers to smuggle the animals across borders. They concealed the reptiles in personal luggage or even under their clothes.
“The suspects introduced protected species into the legal market by falsifying CITES documents attesting the type of reptile. A network of veterinarians helped the criminals by forging documents to conceal the true origin of the animals. This criminal activity focused on a particular species of tortoise, which ensured a market monopoly for the criminal network.”
Those arrested were from Spain and the UK, Europol said, with one of the suspected leaders of the gang among those detained. Credit: Guardia Civil via Storyful