Europol reported on 12th September 2014 that Spain’s Guardia Civil, working with Europol, have dismantled an organised criminal group responsible for the theft of high performance vehicles.

The operation, which began in October 2013, was coordinated by Europol and saw 26 people arrested (19 Spanish, 5 Bulgarians and 2 Moroccans) and 12 house searches conducted, resulting in the seizure of 20 vehicles, weapons and electronic equipment and tools used for the vehicle thefts.

The criminal network was made up of three distinctive cells: Bulgarian, Spanish and Moroccan. The Bulgarian cell used complex electronic devices during the vehicle thefts to deactivate the vehicle alarm systems. The cell would then transfer the vehicles to a warehouse in Madrid and bring in an expert from Valencia to forge the vehicle identification numbers (VINs).

Once the vehicles were prepared with false licence plates, VINs and documents, the Bulgarian cell enlisted Spanish drivers to transfer the vehicles to Bulgaria or Melilla (Morocco), paying them EUR 300 per trip. In Melilla, the Moroccan cell would receive the vehicles and sell them on.