POLICE and customs in Andalucía have seized 88 tonnes of contraband tobacco worth €14 million in what is said to have been Spain's largest smuggling heist of its type in history.
Inquiries started in November, when 11 people were arrested and 41 tonnes of roll-your-own tobacco was seized in operations throughout various provinces in Andalucía.
It was manufactured in three warehousess in Almería – one in the city, one in Huércal and one in Benahadux in the province - and distributed to mainly southern-Spanish companies and to individuals in Spain via courier service.
Cigarette tubes with forged brand names were also seized, along with flavourings used to copy the taste of well-known types of cigarette, plus equipment for making them up, invoices and other documents, and several vehicles.
Police said at the time that they had confiscated enough tobacco to make eight million packets of contraband cigarettes, or 800,000 cartons.
Their inquiries began after the association of tobacconist shops in the province of Jaén reported an unusual drop in sales.
Working with police from Poland, Estonia and Bulgaria, the Guardia Civil in Andalucía continued the investigations and have since found nearly two tonnes of loose tobacco and fake cigarettes in shops in Linares and Santiago de Pontones (Jaén province).
Ongoing raids throughout the region have led to a total of 88 tonnes being seized and a further six arrests.
They were said to have been buying the tobacco in plant format from a company which had eluded health and safety checks by claiming it was using the goods for purposes not related to smoking.
Photograph by the Guardia Civil