Europol have reported that a highly professional and dangerous international organised crime group was dismantled last week after a complex investigation carried out in the framework of a Joint Operational Task Force, established at Europol, between the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau, the British HM Revenue and Customs, the Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, the Estonian Central Criminal Police under the Police and Border Guard Board and the Spanish Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional.
The operation, code-named ‘Icebreaker’, is the biggest of its kind to date in Europe against such an organised crime group, comprising nationals of Lithuania and other EU countries, involved in large-scale drug and cigarette trafficking, assassinations and money laundering.
Over 450 police and customs officers, including special interventions units, in Poland, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Spain carried out coordinated raids targeting the members of this long term existing, highly professional and dangerous criminal network in the early hours of 15 and 16 May with the support of Europol and Eurojust.
As a result, the suspected ringleader – a 48 year old Lithuanian national, was arrested in Spain. A further 21 suspects were detained in Poland, Lithuania, Spain and the United Kingdom. 40 house searches took place, resulting in the seizure of €8 million in cash, diamonds, gold bars, jewellery and luxury vehicles, as well as the discovery of hidden compartments used to smuggle drugs and psychotropic substances. A substantial quantity of illicit cigarettes was also seized.
The magnitude of the damage caused by this organised crime group is significant: it is believed that these criminals acquired an estimated €680 million as a result of their criminal activities for the period 2017-2019 alone. This criminal group would traffic drugs and cigarettes into the UK, before smuggling the illegally obtained cash to Poland by different means.
The money was then laundered via currency exchange offices and subsequently invested in real estate in Spain and other countries. The leaders and members of this crime group used counter surveillance and counter intelligence measures to try to evade law enforcement authorities, as well as specialised encrypted communication devices.