SPAIN'S largest counterfeit banknote factory has been raided and a countrywide racket broken up in the province of Toledo, just south of Madrid.
Two men have been arrested after a villa in the town of Bargas was searched, with every room set up as a different part of the production line – one for printing, one for cutting and copying the hologram, and one for drying the printed notes.
They had enough equipment to allow them to print up to €2 million in €50 notes, and €195,000 were confiscated during the police raid.
Technical similarities between this and another forgery factory in the same area, uncovered a year ago, led to a full police inquiry, and a printing firm – whose owner has now absconded – was found to have been helping out in exchange for commission.
Forged notes produced by the criminal organisation have been found in several provinces, making this the largest-ever counterfeit money production operation in Spain's history.
They mainly targeted ONCE sellers – lottery-ticket vendors in aid of the national blind association who, as a prerequisite for the job, must be disabled.
The suspects bought lottery tickets with fake €50 notes, typically for €1 each, and then kept the change.
Police say they were originally based in the Toledo-province town of Talavera de la Reina – famous for its 'adopted daughter', actress Gwynneth Paltrow, who learnt her now-fluent Spanish during the first of many stays there – but they later moved to a villa in a remote country area.
One of the arrested men was caught leaving the property with a huge bin-bag, found to be full of draft print notes and banknotes which had not printed out properly.
The operation was carried out by the National Police judicial units and the police chief headquarters in Catalunya, as well as offices in Talavera de la Reina, the forgery investigation team at the Bank of Spain, and the EU-wide anti-counterfeit department of Europol.
Photograph by the Guardia Civil