Spain dismantles global crime gang, seizing homes, diamonds and cars

Money-laundering operations included luxury property developments and restaurants

Guns, sports cars and homes have been seized by Spanish police who broke up an organised crime gang allegedly involved in murder and human trafficking across Europe, the US and South America.

Twenty-three people were detained after a seven-year investigation.

The gang had managed to infiltrate Spanish public institutions and their philanthropic arms to carry out money laundering with impunity, Europol said on Wednesday.

The seized items included a Bentley and a Ferrari, diamonds and more than €300,000 ($365,000) in cash.

The gang, made up mostly of Russian speakers, was suspected of being involved in murder, extortion and the trafficking of drugs, arms and people, police said.

It was not immediately clear how many of those arrested were senior gang members and how many were people who carried out their orders.

The investigation uncovered how gang leaders laundered money through luxury real estate developments and by buying restaurants.

When the police raids were carried out on Monday, the gang was planning to buy a nightclub on Ibiza and to take over the nightlife and catering sectors in the Balearic Islands.

Police said the gang used its access to Spanish institutions to carry out criminal actvities with impunity.

Among those "investing" in the empire were major underworld figures from Eastern Europe. Lawyers and politicians were also believed to be embroiled.

A total of 23 arrests were made and 18 homes were searched. Twenty-three properties and 16 high-end vehicles were seized, while bank accounts and property worth millions of euros were blocked. Ten weapons were recovered.