Brit-led underground tobacco factory busted in Spain

Spanish police dismantles a clandestine tobacco factory in Malaga. Photo:

Spanish police has dismantled an underground tobacco factory run by a gang including British citizens.

The Civil Guard, national police force of Spain, has arrested 20 people – including one of the leaders of the gang, a 30-year-old British national fleeing from the authorities by not returning to prison – during the operation code-named Hannibal.

The police said the gang was mainly made up of British citizens, along with persons of Lithuanian and Ukrainian origin.

The search, carried out in collaboration of the British authorities and other foreign police agencies, led to the seizure of 153,000 packets of tobacco ready for sale, 17,600 kilograms of tobacco bites, 20 kilograms of hashish and 144 kg of marijuana, as well as the dismantling of an indoor plantation of the drug.

The clandestine tobacco factory, first of its kind in Europe, was hidden in a stable of horses in the southern province of Malaga. It had a complete production line that allowed the manufacture of more than 3500 cigarettes per hour, the police said.

The facility, located 4 meters below the ground, was accessed through a forklift and stairs. Six workers of Ukrainian nationality were found locked up in the ‘bunker’ with serious breathing difficulties, due to the cut of the power supply that provided electricity to the factory.

The police said the gang turned off the generator, fueled by diesel oil that had to be replaced daily, during the day of the police actions, but, didn’t tell police about the workers inside the factory even after their arrest.

The workers screamed and hit the container that blocked the exit of the facility when noticing the lack of air, but the agents present there in the surface could not hear the distress signals.

“If the police force had not located the clandestine factory in time, the lack of oxygen would have made the conditions of the underground facilities incompatible with the life of the workers who were there,” the police said in a statement.