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TRANSNATIONAL ORGANISED CRIME IN SPAIN: STRUCTURAL FACTORS EXPLAINING ITS PENETRATION

 

Carlos Resa Nestares

 

 

  1. GLOBALISATION OF ORGANISED CRIME

 

Organised crime has long provided writers with a raw material to be transformed into journalism or fiction. In the field of the social sciences, an extensive bibliography likewise exists covering quite a wide range of theoretical perspectives. However, there would appear to be a relative dearth of material in which the phenomenon of organised crime and how it spreads is approached with a strictly Spanish focus.

In recent decades, criminal organisations have increasingly engaged in cross-border activities, in a way which is so-called the transnationalisation of organised crime, spilling over beyond the borders of the countries in which the organisations originally sprang up, and functioning in a global market context, so to speak (Martin and Romano 1992; William 1994; Bossard 1990). By acting through the networks rooted in the legal economy by globalisation processes, criminal organisations have taken to drawing up plans on a rationalised, country-by-country basis, for a wide range activities such as money laundering, white slavery and drug trafficking so as to take maximum advantage of the legal framework of the countries involved (Bequia 1979; Scott and Hirsch 1988; Williams and Woessner 1995; Observatoire Geopolitique des Droges 1994). In a number of developing countries, the viability of emerging democracies has come under serious threat due to the existence of serious organised crime and in the European case is in top of the agenda drawn up by the European Union under the insistence of the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

Business market for illegal activities is extremely larga, but there is, of course, far more to it than just numbers. Political leaders and, consequently, national and international bodies are becoming seriously concerned by the extent to which organised crime has established a presence in the legitimate industry. Investigations carried out in Europe and the United States reveal that significant segments of the economy has been penetrated, or even in some cases taken over, by organised crime (Block 1991; Block and Chambliss 1981; Francis 1988; Passas y Nelken 1993; Van Duyne 1991). Following a fairly straightforward and even convenient process of money laundering, criminal organisations invest the enormous profits they earn from their illicit enterprises into the above-board segments of the economy. The dividing line between legal and illegal economic activities is blurred, competence principles in a market economy are weakened, the political system which is supposed to regulate the state is endangered and organised crime extends its influence deeper into society at large.

The extent to which organised crime has been able to broaden the range of its activities, the panic this has triggered, together with social consequences such as growing drug addiction, the diminished authority of the state and the immediate impact on the governability of polities have all made organised crime one of the absolute national security priorities of liberal democracies in general. In post-Cold War years, organised crime has even reached the top place of the agenda of external and internal security issues, replacing terrorism, which are constructed by official bodies and security agencies in European and other states (Fontana 1995).

Any response to social, political and economic problems raised by transnational organised crime must be founded on specific knowledge of the problem, require "a clear understanding of their roots, their nature and the probability of success of particular kinds of countervailing efforts. Policy made without such an understanding is both fundamentally flawed and doomed by failure. Without insight there can be no solutions" (United Nations 1994). In this sense, analysts insist that the response to these developments must necessarily arise through co-ordinating strategies for international co-operation, whereby states diverse and adopt a common strance towards their common problem (Anderson and Den Boer 1994). This, however, should not be taken as an endorsement of the so-called "war on drugs" declared by United States during the 1980s which gave rise to so many contradictory results, especially in the drug producer countries. In the specific case of the European Union, the supra-national joint approach necessarily involves developing the Second and Third Pillars of the European Union and ensuring that they function more effectively. At any case, this threat stated to international security by transnational organised crime is more diffuse, more insidious, and less amenable to term responses that the traditional threats of the Cold War.

The stepped-up presence of international criminal organisations in Spain has come about as a direct result of a number of specific circumstances --historical and cultural as well as economic and territorial--, each requiring a detailed analysis in itself. It is difficult to adduce evidence for or against increasing cross-border organised crime in the European Union due to the removal of frontier controls between the member states as remarkably little is known about such kind of crime. However, organised, professional criminals, especially drug traffickers, have always had considerable resources and have been able to make full use of the best travel and communication facilities. If there is an increase in the organised crime problem in European Union countries, it is more likely to come from the increases in freedom of movement in, to and from Eastern Europe, rather than from the abolition of the internal frontiers (Levi 1993; Imbert 1989).

 

 

II. ORGANISED CRIME IN SPAIN: AN OVERVIEW

 

The presence of organised crime in Spain, as well in many other European countries, is not limited to recent decades. Gangs of swindlers, bandits and organised smugglers, among others, have operated, to one degree or another, throughout history. In fact, the international contacts of the Spanish smugglers in the adjoining French or Portuguese border regions, whose modus vivendi was in great part dependent on these illegal activities, have always been strong. After the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Second World War, the worsening of the socio-economic situation in Spain, the country's international isolation and the scarcity of many consumer goods in the Spanish market (rationed arbitrarily by the government) contributed to the strengthening of an already existent modality in organised crime: the so-called "estraperlo". This concept includes a wide range of activities related to black markets for primary goods, illicit service payments, extortion, threats and racketeering. Its context is one of widespread corruption and of the exceeding arrogance of the winners in the recent Civil War (1936-39), the essential actors of this story together with industrialists and shopkeepers. The problem lessened as rationing was put an end and the large businessmen of this illicit trade became respectable directors in large building firms and in other spheres of the service and banking sector.

It was not until the early 1970s that the large international crime groups began to establish themselves in a major way in Spain, and then mainly, and surreptitiously, in the tourist Costa del Sol, in Southern Spain. Their main activity consisted of laundering the money generated in businesses such as drug trafficking, arm trafficking, extortion and kidnapping. After creating operating bases and incorporating new and powerful criminal organisations, they have achieved a division of labour so perfect that they have been able to operate virtually unnoticed by the majority of the general public. The only violent incidences in Spain have been mainly a consequence of internal power conflicts in the organisation headquarters. International criminal organisations in Spain always have tried to avoid the ostentatious violence they use in other parts of the world in order to maintain this country as a secure base for money-laundering, an activity for which they consider it especially suitable, and as a refuge when times become tough in their motherland. According to official figures, annually about four billions US dollars are laundered in Spain (El País 1996b).

International arms trafficking groups are the oldest international criminal groups in Spain. They are principally Arabs, who have a long history in the Costa del Sol region, from which they manage their business throughout the world. In their wake many other crime organisation have arrived, mainly looking for secure territories for money laundering. Colombian narcotic cartels, essentially involved in cocaine trafficking, have used Galicia (in Northwest Spain) as a bridgepoint to Europe since the mid 1980s. Besides these cartels' well-known relations with Galician smugglers, they have also established contacts in other coastal regions in northern Spain. As polices pressure on the Galician coast has got tougher since the early 1990s, drug traffickers have resorted to the centuries-old informal and formal networks of the fishermen in the Atlantic ocean. Thus, with the most important Galician druglords in prisons and second-line elements managing the business, Colombian cartels have started to introduce cocaine into the ports of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country.

As regards heroine, it is the Turkish mafia which has traditionally has channelled this illicit trade through Spain, in collaboration with the Calabrian N'Drangheta and the Neapolitan Camorra. The retail traffic in heroine is partly controlled by the gypsies, traditionally a minority and racially-marginated group with their own laws, often linked to petty crime. They are accustomed to deal with violence and their dense network have proved almost impenetrable by the police, factors with make them optimum candidates for trade with violent heroine addicts. As a gypsy commented on television: "They [the non-gypsy population] are the ones who make the money. All we want is to feed our children" (Telemadrid 1996). In this sense, the case of 'Tío Casiano' [Uncle Casiano] is a relevant one. 'Tío Casiano' is a gypsy patriarch who in early 1990s undertook a fight against drugs in the gypsy community for which he was received by the King and Queen of Spain. In December of 1995, he was arrested in his dwelling and accused of being the major distributor of heroine in the south of Spain. Police found in his possession $320,000 in cash, $240,000 in jewels, eleven luxury vehicles and a bill-counting machine. He used a prestigious Seville jewel store as his front. However, in recent years southern Italian mafias, bypassing the Turkish connection, seem to have been using their own routes to introduce heroin. In December of 1995, the police arrested a clan from the Neapolitan Camorra. This group had been operating in Spain since the end of the 1980s in the same style as the Sicilian mafia in New York (although on a much more modest level) in a ring which was uncovered in the "Pizza Connection". They operated under the front of a chain of pizzerias in the southern city of Granada. Among the twenty-one people arrested was a sergeant from the Unidad Central de Información Fiscal y Antidroga (Central Unit of Fiscal and Anti-drug Information), who had been passing along information to the clan.

The Chinese Triads, established in Spain in the early 1990s, have imported their traditional model of extorting their compatriots who live in Spain. The relatively scarce number of Chinese in Spain in comparison to the number of those in other developed countries, a factor which has impeded the formation of a self-contained Chinese-Spanish community, is in all probability the reason for the Chinese's not having established themselves in the drug market in Spain. A Triad group which operated out of Barcelona was a arrested in 1995 and accused of the death of a fellow Chinese in a restaurant. Apparently this man had refused to pay the protection tax of $16,000 per year. Explosions had previously been detected in Chinese restaurants. The infrastructure of the Chinese Mafias, directed from outside the country, was left intact in this sting operation, which leads to the suspicion that this group could be reorganised at any time. In addition, through the falsification of documents and their strong connections in other areas, these mafias are operating in the illegal entry of Chinese immigrants in Spain, primarily from the underdeveloped agricultural province of Zhejiang. The trip costs the immigrants $16,000, of which a half is paid in China while the other half of the debt is liquidated by working in Spain. The work conditions are of semi-slavery in restaurants, houses of prostitution, and garment factories. The Japanese Yakuzas, with their traditional methods, have come in the wake of Japanese investment in Spain, but their networks are still poorly developed. The latest arrivals in the club of organised crime have been the Russian mafias, who have dedicated themselves primarily to the extortion of their countrymen and to money-laundering, a field in which they have even tried to buy a certain financial institution.

It would seem that Spanish groups have served primarily as second-level subsidiaries in drug trafficking. In addition they control groups dedicated to white slavery, which trade primarily in women from Brazil and the Caribbean and whose co-ordination seems to be carried out by intricately organised Spanish groups.

In the drug business, the most lucrative activity of transnational organised crime, different drugs have very different routes in their passage through Spain, a fact which is central in determining the structure and sizes of each organisation dealing with them. In the case of heroine Spain is of small importance within the Balkan Route and the drug road from South-eastern Asia. The same could be said about chemical drugs, which play a secondary but increasing role in the international drug market, coming primarily from Holland, the United Kingdom and the reconverted industries of Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, estimated consumption of ecstasy and heroin in Spain is one of the highest in the European Union. On the contrary, for hashish and cocaine, Spain is a country of fundamental importance in international drug trafficking, for it serves as an entry point to the wider European market. In spite of the caution with which the numbers on drug apprehensions should be taken, this would seem to be the case. In 1995, 197,024 kilos of hashish (26,3 per cent of the amount intercepted in the European Union), 6,897 kilos of cocaine (33,1 per cent), and 546 kilos of heroin (10,6 per cent). These data make a total for the 1990-1995 period of 869,337 kilos of hashish, 32,409 of cocaine, and 5,012 of heroin (Plan Nacional sobre Drogas 1996).

It is well known that cocaine, controlled by the Colombian drug cartels who have established their operating bases in Spain, originates in Colombia and other South American countries, (Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador o Peru). As concerns cannabis derivatives, on the other hand, the only thing that is clear is that their production is controlled by Moroccans, with the support (either explicit or implicit) of that country's political leaders and police force. It is remarkable the lack of collaboration Moroccan authorities show up towards the eradication of cannabis plantations in their country. They always relates the fights against drugs in home to more economic co-operation by European Union. Both the introduction of hashish from Morocco into the European Union as well its distribution within Europe itself is diversified among various small-sized European organisations, including Moroccan communities in different European countries and among the large mafias, for whom it is basically a second-class product. The techniques for interdiction of hashish in Spain are so diverse as mind can imagine: from individuals crossing the Straits of Gibraltar as passengers in commercial ferries with little amounts of hashish in his or her body (the so-called "mules", 142 Spanish citizens are in jail in Morocco) to coaches in regular travel to European countries and fishing boats from the nearest towns in Southern Spain or high-speed motor boats crossing the Strait by night and stating in Gibraltar as a secure refuge.

Operating from their own national territory, the Moroccan mafias also dedicate themselves to the task of introducing illegal immigrants of all nationalities into the European Union. These immigrants traverse the Straits of Gibraltar in fishing boats from the south of Spain or in small wooden boats whose disadvantage is that they are often lost in the stormy waters of the Straits, but which have the advantage that they cannot be detected by police radar. According to official calculations, only thirty percent of these "wet backs" who risk their lives to cross the Straits of Gibraltar in small boats are caught. And in the last five years, six thousand have been captured. The price per immigrant is between $8,000 and $40,000. On the payment of this sum, the immigrants receive not only clandestine passage into the European Union but also a number of very practical tips on how to take advantage of the legal system of the European countries, in particular, Spain, their port of entry. The Moroccan mafias counsel the immigrants that if they dispose of their passports upon arrival in the Iberian peninsula, it will, in practice, be impossible to repatriate them. This is due to the fact that the Moroccan authorities take no responsibility for citizens whose nationality cannot be proved. The police have forty days to make a study of the case of each immigrant. If, within this time, they are not able to come up with basic information, such as the name and nationality of the immigrants, they are obligated to set them free. The immigrants are also advised by the mafias to declare themselves citizens of a country at war, which gives them the right to temporary residence while their request for political asylum is reviewed. In addition they are given the names of various non-profit organisations where they can ask for help in finding work. If there are subsequent problems with the police, they should say that they have lost their papers, and later someone will testify that they are long-time residents of Spain. In the case that the above strategies fail, they are advised to commit a petty crime, which will caused their expulsion to be delayed by various months.

At any rate, a growing relationship has been established between Islamic fundamentalism and the production of and traffic in hashish in various cities in northern Morocco. For example, the main smuggler of hashish between Morocco and Spain built Tangiers' luxurious mosque (as well as three others in the vicinity) with the profits from drug trafficking. The Islamic seminary housed in this mosque is one of the most prestigious in the country.

Other activities, such as tobacco smuggling are of a smaller scale and in any case, are conducted through multinational mafias who operate in complicity with the world's principal tobacco companies. Each year, 700 million smuggled-in packs of tobacco are sold in Spain. This merchandise comes primarily from the East through different land and sea routes, from the United States and from Andorra. It makes up ten per cent of the tobacco consumed annually in Spain, which implies a loss of 120 millions US dollars for the Spanish tobacco industry. Contraband tobacco can be found throughout Spain and is smuggled in primarily through Andalusia, Galicia and Catalonia. This tobacco traffic is controlled by large mafias dedicated to contraband goods, even of European size.

 

 

III. TWO DIFFERENT GROUPS, TWO DIFFERENT STYLES OF OPERATION

 

The form and the operations undertaken by criminal groups operating in Spain varies in accordance with the missions that they carry out from their Spanish bases and with the way of operating particular to their country of origin. This can be seen by a comparison between the most powerful and well-connected group located in Spain --the Colombian drug cartels, who established themselves in Spain in the eighties-- and the Russian mafias, a recent arrival. That, in a nutshell, is a review of the historical evolution of the Russian and Colombian criminal structures in Spain.

 

 

III.1 - The newcomers: the Russian Mafias

 

In the generic denomination "Russian Mafias" the police include all those individuals from the former Soviet Union, who are ethically very diverse, but operationally, very similar. These groups proliferated among the ruins of the former Soviet superpower, and have arrived Spain during 1990s. They include Ukrainians, Belarussians, Georgians, and Chechenians as well as others from other former satellites of the Soviet Union during the Cold War years, such as Poles, Serbs and Bulgarians. Since 1994, these groups, mixed with the nouveau riches of the budding and still confusing economy of the Russian market economy, have been establishing themselves primarily in three areas: the Costa del Sol in Malaga province (especially in Marbella and Estepona, two cities which are mainly touristic), the area of Valencia (above all in Torrevieja and Benidorm) and the Catalonian coast. In 1993 the Spanish Consulate in Moscow gave 44,584 visas and in 1994 this number almost doubled. In the last two years the Spanish government has followed a stricter policy for the concession of visas to citizens of the former Soviet republics. This, however, has not prevented even the Russian mafias from controlling the visas in their own country.

All signs point to the existence of large-scale money-laundering operations run by Russian mafiya in Spain, mainly in investments in real estate and tourism, which, given the instability of the mother country, is safer than keeping the money in Russia. After a few money-laundering operations in areas of the Eastern Mediterranean such as Cypress and in Switzerland, the eternal favourite, it seems that these groups have decided for Spain as a base instead. It is supposed that these mafias have invested thousand of millions pesetas in the acquisition of tourist apartments and bungalows in posh urban developments as well as in the installation of restaurants and other services related to tourism. The investments are individual or are made through mercantile companies located in the coast which receive a flow of capital from the mother country (fifty in Alicante alone). They are principally dedicated to foreign trade, real estate sales, food and tourism, businesses which are always conducted with cash. Between 1994 and 1995, the presumably "clean" operations operating out the of former Eastern block, given the fact that the shady ones escape police and fiscal control, were worth 16 million US dollars. This information has been gleaned from passengers on direct flights from Moscow to Spanish cities on the Mediterranean, who stow plastic bags with up to one million dollars in cash in their hand luggage. In the Costa del Sol, there are also financial advisors who specialise in Russian citizens with fat profits.

A report of the Spanish secret services from March of 1995, revealed that organised groups from the former Soviet Union would be interested in acquiring a small bank in order to penetrate the Spanish financial sector. Once they introduced themselves into the Russian financial system through the purchase of banking institutions and the creation of companies that they use in order to launder money, the next step was to expand and vary their investments, which meant crossing international borders. Since their arrival in Spain, they have made various attempts to purchase a small banking institution, all of which have been fruitless (El País 1996a).

In the last two or three years, organisations dedicated to the thefts of luxury cars have also sprung up in the Costa del Sol and in Madrid. Once stolen, these cars are transported by Russian or Polish mafia groups to the former Eastern countries in order to be resold. The proliferation of Russian-controlled prostitution rings, so frequent in other countries of the European Union, and especially in Turkey, is still scarce in Spain. The same can be said of the falsification of passports, visas and residency permits, as well as of the importation of Belarussians children for adoption purposes, made possible by the falsification of official documents. Although it may be too early to say, it seems that certain Eastern groups are also becoming involved in drug trafficking, mainly of heroine, due to their advantageous position on the heroin routes from South-eastern Asia.

The cruelty of these groups has been amply demonstrated by the half-dozen tortured corpses they have left in their tracks in Andalusia. These murders may have been due to a settling of accounts, carried out now not in the snows of Russian but rather in the South of Spain. At any rate, this cruelty clearly differentiates the Russian groups from other international criminal organisations established in Spain, which observe the unwritten law of avoiding shoot-outs and murders in order not to arouse the suspicions of the police. Although the Russians' principal activity in Spain is money laundering, extortion of their fellow countrymen is also on the rise, to the tune of 10 to 15 percent of the vast amounts of money that these individuals invest in tourist lodging. The methods used are similar to the "protection tax" that the Chinese mafias demand from restaurants, and which is advisable to pay if they do not want to see their businesses burned or destroyed.

In many cases, the Russian mafias take advantage of the lack of co-operation of the Russian police with Spanish investigations. The collapse of governmental structures, which has decimated the police force, is one reason for this lack of co-operation. Others are the pervasive corruption which plagues the Russian police as well as their spotty training in new types of criminality.

 

 

III.2 - The Veterans: the Colombian Cartels

 

The Latin American drug dealers had their eye on Spain since the late 1970s, in large part because they were fleeing the pressure exerted on them by the United States within their respective countries. In the mid 1980s, the Colombian drug lords had to flee their country due to the pressure being put on them for the first time in their history. Two of these druglords, Jorge Luis Ochoa and Gilberto Rodríguez-Orejuela, ended up in Spain, where they had already established some friendships and had strong economic interests, mainly as a result of the open relationship between Spain and her ex-colonies; Carlos Lehder, another druglord, had already been in Spain for some time. They felt that Spain was a safe haven in which to set up camp far from the long arm of the American DEA, which had just opened its first delegation in Spain. An additional plus was that fact that the recently elected socialist government in Spain was reluctant to collaborate with the North Americans. Since they thought that their stay would be a long-term one, they began to organise new markets for cocaine in Spain. However, they were both arrested and extradited to Colombia in 1986. In the meantime, they set about making good Spanish contacts in the prison where they were being held. In Colombia they were shortly set free and renewed their contacts in order to set into motion the introduction of cocaine in Europe. In 1989 DEA already had proof that the Iberian peninsula was the main point of entry of cocaine in Europe. It was also the principal receptor of money laundering. Permeable economic relations, a shared cultural heritage (in which a profound devotion to the saints figures prominently) and a common language had contributed decisively to this movement.

In Galicia, an agricultural and backward province in the Northwest of Spain, which shares its southernmost border with Portugal, smuggling has a long tradition (Conde 1991). Since the Civil War, the smuggler had acquired the reputation of public benefactors, supplying essential goods such as food and medicine. They do not only aroused admiration for their daring and adventurous image, but also undertook certain functions of public protection such as providing penicillin to those who could not afford it and a mutual tolerance of clandestine fishing. They were highly regarded as recently as 1987, in which a mayor from the conservative party on a Galician coast village stated that "the smugglers are the most honest people in the world". Well into the 1960s, they continued trafficking in foodstuffs, alcohol, clothing and minerals. During this time they discovered the benefits of trafficking in American tobacco, which they smuggled in mainly through the forbidding estuaries of the Galician coast. The Portuguese introduced them to this business, but were soon displaced by the Galicians, who began to deal with the different organisations dedicated to tobacco smuggling, among which were the Italian Mafia and well-organised Greek groups. At that time they expanded their distribution networks into the rest of Spain and began to employ money-laundering techniques, both of capital flight to Switzerland as well as money-laundering in local financial institutions. It was also at this time that low-level violence made its appearance. Large amounts of money began to flow into the backwoods area of Galicia. The social and political context was extremely benevolent with this state of affairs, with the important complicity of the police forces and financial institutions. The smugglers enjoyed flaunting their money, and Galician children wanted to be smugglers which they grew up. Sito Miñanco, one of the principal Galician drug dealers was known as "the benefactor" or "Robin Hood". He was the president of a youth group from his village and paid for the church alter out of his own pocket. Other drug traffickers made their own contributions to public welfare, which ranged from village celebrations to road repairs.

In the mid 1980s, the Galician smugglers had the key to the practically unexploited European cocaine market which the Colombian drug smugglers were dying to get their hands on. And as for the Colombians, they were able to offer a product which would exponentially increase the profits of the Galician groups, although with a similarly steep increase in risks. From that time on, Galicia was to become the principal point of entry of cocaine into Europe.

The operations of smuggling cocaine into Galicia seem to have followed unchanging patterns throughout the past decade. The Colombians put the shipments on mother boats flying flags of third countries, paid for by the Galicians (these boats rent for around one million dollars, depending on their capacity) and which bring the shipment across the Atlantic Ocean. This shipment is smuggled into European territories in various ways. One possibility is that the ship docks in Galician ports in order to unload the drug shipment together with other merchandise for businesses which, provided by the Galicians, serve as fronts. The other is that the drug shipments are picked up on high seas from the mother boat by fishing boats or high-speed motor boats, which then bring the merchandise to land by way of the craggy coasts of Galicia in collaboration with reinforcements on the shore. At a later time, Colombian and Galician drug smugglers each take their fifty percent of the merchandise. Since the distribution networks are different, the two sides do not enter into conflict: while the Galicians dedicate themselves to the Spanish market, the Colombian cartels send their merchandise by highway towards other European countries.

Nevertheless, the Colombian cartels have always had a two-pronged operational strategy in Spain. On one hand, they introduce the drug into the country through the Atlantic coast of Galicia, and on the other had, either alone or in collaboration with French or Italian organisations, they enter Spain through the Mediterranean coast, funnelling the shipments through their own businesses, which receive the merchandise in which the drug is hidden. In October 1994, the head of the declining Medellín Cartel was arrested in Barcelona and accused of introducing large quantities of Colombian cocaine into the country through the port of Barcelona by means of a complex web of companies. Recently the cartels have diversified their points of entrance to include the Spanish airports, which now receive part of the drug shipments in a direct connection from Latin American countries.

At the end of the 1980s, the Galician smugglers, now integrated into the international drug smuggling network, entered into a relationship with Turkish heroin groups and began to deal in this drug. They have also been connected for some time now with the Moroccan hashish traffic. The normal route of entry for this drug is in Galician fishing boats which go to fish off the Moroccan coast. It was a strategic error on the part of these bands, for the drug began to leave a trail of death on the Galician coast as addiction among young people soared. The prestige of the smugglers, which had, if possible, risen with the entrance of large amounts of money into Galicia, took a steep decline. As judge Carlos Bueren declared recently, the smugglers and drug traffickers are regarded favourably within the general population, "they give out favours right and left" and "have the nerve and the arrogance not to hide the origin of their money". They began to come up against hostility on the part of a great number of their fellow Galicians, particularly among the mothers of heroin addicts. At first the protest was a silent one, but it is now beginning to take the shape of a head-on confrontation, in the shape of the associations of mothers against drugs which are springing up on the Galician coast. These mobilisations were crucial to the increasing involvement of political and judicial authorities in the fight against drug trafficking as they become increasingly aware of the dimensions of the problem, which until recently they had tolerated. The children of Galicia no longer want to be smugglers when they grow up (El País 1996c).

 

 

III.3 - Differences, Similarities

 

It can be said that there are five basic differences between the operating styles of these groups in Spain. The first has to do with location. While the Colombian clans have chosen Madrid and Barcelona, the two principal cities in Spain, as their centre of operations and as the main destination for money to be laundered, the Russian mafias have installed themselves in the Mediterranean coasts from Galicia to Catalonia. The reason for this situation is no other than the different activities that each group dedicates itself to: while the Colombians carry out important operating functions within the organisation of the nucleus of their business (that is, European cocaine trafficking), the Russians are able to dedicate themselves to enjoying the profits acquired from their money laundering with hardly any other operational responsibilities.

The second difference is the level of contact with native Spaniards. Although in both cases the majority of the contacts is limited to those established with such professionals as lawyers, economists an so on, the Colombians' contact with the society is much more diversified. Because of the very nature of their operations, they are obliged to make contact with Spanish entrepreneurs who can receive shipments of drugs without arousing suspicion. These contacts are not necessary in the case of the Russians, whose money-laundering operations can be carried out within their own communities. The Colombian druglords also need Spaniards, usually from lower classes, in mid-level jobs in the structure of their organisation: low-level traffickers, mules, warehousemen and so on.

The third difference can be established in terms of violence. Russian mafia groups are especially virulent and cruel in the former Soviet Union, just as they are in Spain. The Colombian drug dealers, on the other hand, have always acted with more restraint, trying to avoid the use of violence although, of course, they do make ample use of threats. Nevertheless, in recent months the violence employed by these Colombian groups has escalated, a development which may be a reflection of the convulsive national scene in Colombia or again, may be owing to a settling of accounts with part of their structure in Spain. In 1995 a Galician "pentiti" and a Spanish lawyer who was also giving indications of wanting to repent were murdered by Colombian hired assassins. The corpses of four murdered Colombians have turned up in Madrid during the last year in strange circumstances.

In fourth place is the relationship of these groups with national banks. The Colombian drug traffickers have been able to function perfectly within the Spanish financial system, which has turned a blind eye to their suspicious deposits and movements of money. In addition, the cartels have been able to count on the collaboration of key people within the Spanish system. In the case of the Russian mafias, however, one of their first steps upon arriving in Spain was an attempt to buy a Spanish bank. The organisation of their respective headquarters has a great bearing on these groups' different relationships with the Spanish banks. In Russia, the mafia controls a large part of the financial system. Were they to enjoy a similar situation in Spain, they would be able to move much more rapidly than they are presently able to do.

Last of all, the Russian mafias have a range of activities which, although it is still limited, is far more varied than that of the Colombian drug traffickers, who have dedicated themselves almost exclusively to the distribution of cocaine in Europe and the subsequent laundering part of the profits. On one hand, this situation limits their future evolution, but it also affords them an almost complete monopoly of a product which continues to be highly profitable.

However, these differences between the two criminal organisations are volatile, depending on the several variables, which are directly dependent on the internal situations of their respective countries of origin. It is perfectly possible that the present situation may change due to different operating strategies of the Russian clans, who may make their branches in Spain change to a more direct involvement in heroin trafficking. In the case of the Colombians, changes may come about due to a greater use of violence on the part of their drug traffickers in order to establish their control over their ranks.

 

 

 

IV. STRUCTURAL FACTORS FACILITATING INTRODUCTION OF TRANSNATIONAL ORGANISED CRIME IN SPAIN

 

After a preliminary review of the situation of organised crime in Spain, the question is obviously, why have large criminal groups established a presence in Spain? As has been pointed out in the introduction of this paper, large criminal organisations operate increasingly from a global perspective in which they analyse a multitude of details, pros and cons, before finally choosing the location for their departments, branches and contracts. This process, undertaken in the same rational manner as in multinational companies in the legal sector of the economy, ensures that the place finally chosen will be the one best suited to their needs.

The reasons that transnational organised crime has expanded into Spain are various.

Firstly, and most obviously, is the geographical situation of the Iberian peninsula. In some cases, it is the fact of its close proximity to the logistical bases of powerful criminal organisations, such as the Marseilles clans or the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. In others, it is simply inevitable for certain drug traffic to pass through Spain; this is the case of the Moroccan hashish destined for Central Europe. In addition, its political status within an area of free circulation of merchandise, people, capital and services and the facilities offered in terms of internal and external communication systems as well as the extension of its coastline, make Spain a logical choice for criminal associations.

Secondly, Spain's legal situation. The absence of specific and concrete legislation on organised crime, added to the existence of a legal framework which is excessively protective of criminals rights as well as the weak nature of the overdue legislation with regard to penitent criminals makes the prosecution of criminal groups almost impossible. The legislation on money-laundering is practically non-existent and what does exist contains extremely important gaps. At the present time various legal modifications giving better protection to anti-drug operations which use undercover agents are in the works. However, according to Gonzalo Robles, general director of the National Plan against Drugs, they will not be similar to "the American model of provoking criminal actions in order to repress them"(El País 1996d). In addition, in order to combat drug trafficking parlamentary approval will be requested for controlling the entry of capital (El Mundo 1996a).

Thirdly, the situation of the justice system. There are no judges who specialise in these affairs, which are taken up by the National Court (Audiencia Nacional). This court also deals with terrorism cases and has been bogged down for years, a situation which slows down and complicates the investigation of summaries. Paradoxically, the structure of the National Court with only five examining magistrates has given rise to the situation in which only one of them, Baltazar Garzón, is investigating the extremely complicated GAL case, which has to do with state terrorism and which has now lasted ten years. In addition, Garzón is the only magistrate investigating a pile of briefs which have to do with the terrorism of ETA as well as a number of drug trafficking cases. This situation has been brought about by excessive personalism, in which judges are more interested in appearing in the press than in correctly investigating cases. All of these problems, in addition to the wide-spread corruption among judges and magistrates as well as an excessive corporativism in the judicial classes (proved in some cases, and supposed in others) has led to some strange decisions in the case of summaries related to organised crime, decisions which are almost always favourable to the accused.

Fourth, the economic policy. During a decade and a half, the public policy of the governing socialist party benevolently favoured foreign investment in Spain without asking too many questions as to where the money had come from or what it was destined for. And although the attempt was made to render fiscal policy more transparent, it continues to be of a turbulent complexity. During successive socialist governments between 1982 and 1996, there were three periods of fiscal amnesty for illicit funds. The very public debt, constantly rising, became a black hole for illicit moneys. And last of all, in 1994 the liberalisation of international capital transactions was effected which, although it was drawn up with the intention of optimising fiscal transparency and of increasing foreign investment in Spain, had exactly the opposite effect, making it easier for money launder professionals to operate. Although in principal the transfers are transparent, they are later "covered up" though complex financial operations.

Fifth, the productive structure. There are a couple of factors which makes Spain ideal for organised crime in this respect. One very important factor is that the tourism sector, one of the organised crimes' favourites for money laundering since it makes it possible to hide the true nature of the criminal activities, generates ten percent of the Gross National Product. The other is that the construction industry, another favourite of money launder professionals, is highly important in Spain. This situation makes Spain ideal for this kind of illicit activities. In addition, the underground economy, whose ties with organised crime are usually clear, is of a respectable size in Spain as compared with other European countries.

In sixth place, there is the financial system. Spanish banking institutions, who also have an extensive network of offices in Latin America, have never been very inclined to collaborate with the justice system, although they have been more than willing to carry out large-scale operations of financial engineering with objectives such as money laundering or capital flight. In August of this year the Home Secretary observed that the collaboration of financial institutions with his office to uncover and pursue money laundering is at the very most, "in need of improvement". Practically all of the important Spanish banks have been linked with different accusations of money laundering. At the present time, the Belgian justice system is investigating the participation of Banesto in the Colombian Cali Cartel's laundering of drug dollars. According to these reports, the Spanish bank served as a bridge to channel drug money into Europe, money which subsequently entered into a complex European financial circuit. It is estimated that, in 1994, Banesto may have funnelled one thousand million dollars of Cali Cartel's money into Europe (El Mundo 1996b). The Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, on the other hand, has been judged for the laundering of drug money on the order of $63,200,000 in its Ceuta office, an Spanish city in Northern Africa. A branch office of the Banco Hispano Americano in a small village in Galicia the main distributor of foreign currency for Galician smugglers involved in the illicit tobacco trade from 1982 to 1983, changing in foreign currencies and evading thousand of millions pesetas (Conde 1991; 117-8). In 1995, principally in order to get good press, the Banco Santander, one of the most important banks in Spain, created an original unit specialised in detecting where money was coming from. For purposes of this unit, the bank has signed on the services of an ex-police officer, expert in such matters. According to the bank's Board of Directors, the purpose is to avoid illicit funds being passed through the bank for purposes of legalisation and to introduce them into legal circulation. The bank's personnel is also being given training in this area.

In seventh place, there is the lack of co-ordination among police forces. The existence of a numerous police forces (both civil and military) accompanied by a confusing division of jurisdictions, which practically all converge on drug traffic and border patrol has made things easier for drug dealers and made conflicts between different agencies in charge of national security more probable. For example, the Consejo Superior contra el Tráfico de Drogas y el Blanqueo de Capitales (High Council Against Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering), formed by the highest-ranking police, judicial and financial authorities in the country did not meet again until July of 1996. And until this year, there was no unified data base on the activities of organised crime. In addition there is no special police force dedicated to money laundering, which, in practice, means that the only hope is that a confiscation would permit police to track down the final stage of criminal operations, that is, money laundering. In addition, the police, due to the exceptional characteristics of previous political regimes, enjoys a privileged autonomy.

In eighth place there is the lack of resources of the police force. In the area of organised crime the dearth of mechanical resources and the obsolescence of the ones in use (vehicles, computer technology, telecommunications) is alarmingly obvious, especially in the pursuit of criminals who utilise the latest technology. For example, the boats used to chase down drug runners are adapted tourist yachts, small and slow, with any number of technical problems, mainly due to the intense workspace they are subjected to.

Ninth, there is police corruption. Members of the police forces are frequently being hauled in in sting operations against different organised crime groups in Spain. Their function, obviously, was to pass on relevant police information in exchange for payment, and in some cases to muddle up police investigations. Advance warnings to crime lords has made complete success for most large-scale police operations against drug trafficking impossible. The following two cases may be regarded as symptomatic. In the first, the General Director of the Police warned a well-known journalist friend a day in advance of a large-scale police sting operation about the problems that one of the journalist's friends, a known member of the jet-set, was going to have for drug trafficking. In the second, the head of the National Guard's Fiscal Service (Servicio Fiscal de la Guardia Civil) stated to the newspaper with the largest circulation in Spain the "in Galicia we have set up an important network of telephone taps and we have dossiers on almost three thousand people who could potentially have some connection to smuggling activities". This declaration was made while the Judicial Police force was carrying out am investigation into the intrigues of smuggling bands in Galicia.

In tenth place, are concrete social characteristics, a factor which has been decisive in the establishment of Latin American drug traffickers in Spain, due to the common language and culture as well as a large community of immigrants from the same country. Other organisations have also considered Spain an ideal country to avoid political pressure and the settling of accounts for a completely different reason from the above; that is, the large number of tourists which come to the country. There are some examples of this. In 1986, some Colombian drug lords arrived in Spain fleeing from an escalation in violence and pressures put on them by the government of their country. Gaetano Badalamenti, a New York capo dedicated to heroine traffic, landed in Spain due to internal struggles between the Grado and Greco families. In August of 1996, a runaway member of the Calabrian N'Draguetta, Giuseppe Carnovale, turned up in Barcelona after having escaped from an Italian prison. The Marseilles mafiosi often take refuge in Catalonia when they sense a toughening of political pressure in France and continue controlling their business from Barcelona until the storm passes. This fact has converted Spain into a headquarters for both chance and pre-arranged meetings in order to set up large scale dealings between different criminal organisations. The Mediterranean coast, from Catalonia to Andalusia, provides the ideal place of refuge for organised crime groups, who can blend in with the large number of foreigners present at almost all times of the year. In the short term, this situation is propitious for encounters between different criminal organisations who have the common goal of increasing the size of their operations. For example, when the political pressure rises in France, the Marseilles clans continue to direct and keep tabs on their criminal activities in the South of France from refuges on the Costa Brava. There, they are only a few hours on the highway or a day by sea (the ports are frequented by numerous foreign boats) from their "business" in France. And in Spain they make contact with other mafias, such as the Colombian Cartel and traffickers in hashish from the North of Africa.

In eleventh place is a policy of laxness with respect to drugs. During 1980s, the socialist government implemented laws which allowed the possession of small quantities of drugs in addition to public and private drug consumption. This fact may have generated an more permissive atmosphere among the security forces with respect to large consignments of drugs and drug trafficking.

In twelfth place, there is the existence of small-scale bands of organised crime. The smugglers located throughout Spain, especially in the border regions, had put together well-organised networks, whose plans of entry and distribution could be used by large-scale organisations trafficking in hard drugs. In addition, the gypsies constituted a group traditionally associated with petty crime throughout Spain whose methods of operation were a bit archaic, but who had the advantage of being socially very cohesive and of having well-established internal group laws.

 

 

V. CONCLUSION

 

Although the presence of organised crime is not as intense in Spain as in other Western European countries or as in underdeveloped countries, it does have enough economic and international clout so that national security is slightly threatened by criminals whose crimes go unpunished because of their contacts with high-ups within the judicial, financial and even political hierarchies. The fact that Spain is not the country origin of any of the large-scale organisations of world-wide crime has contributed decisively to this situation. In purely economic terms, it can be said that financial crime played an important role in the strong economic growth that Spain experienced at the end of the eighties. This growth was made possible mainly by a revaluation of assets due to large investments in real estate for money laundering purposes. As a result, the price of buildings shot up in Spain.

The co-operation between the police forces of different national security agencies (mainly Italian, Portuguese and French) has contributed and will without doubt continue to contribute to partially limiting the massive entrenchment of large-scale international criminal organisations. The harmonisation of the legislation of the various European countries, above all in questions related to drugs and more specifically, that which concerns organised crime, as well as the recent unfreezing of the Europol should prove to be effective tools for combating organised crime. For example, a case for speeding harmonisation occurred when the lawyer of the N'Drangheta capo, Giuseppe Carnovale, accused of homicide in Italy and an a prison escapee, asked that his client be liberated in Spain because in this country no-one can be sentenced to life in prison, the sentence that Carnovale would have received in Italy. Interpol, the Schengen system, the extinct Trevi Group, and the new European Union structures, including K4 Committee and the European Drug Unit-Europol, have been the most important formal arrangements for promoting police co-operation in Europe in recent years. In addition to these, there is wide array of less formal arrangement, such as law enforcement networks, groups and agreements, forming a complicated, sometimes interconnecting, mesh of structures and arrangements, serviced by a range of information systems, for police co-operation in the European Union. However, an impediment to effective structures for police co-operation is the current, basic lack of knowledge and understanding about the types and extent of cross-border crime (Benyon 1994). Nevertheless, given the ever-increasing transnationalisation of these groups, the future does not look too bright. Besides, the arrival of foreign mafias carries with it an additional threat for the host country: that as these mafias come into contact with local groups, the latter begin to adopt the structures and methods of their foreign colleagues. This danger should be taken seriously in Spain, given the inadequacy of its legislature in this respect and its ideal geographic situation. Judge Carlos Bueren, one of the most committed in the fight against drug trafficking, was not very optimistic last autumn when commenting on the future in Spain he said: "we are going to be surprised by new and more violent drug-related murders" (Abc 1995).

 

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Última actualización 27 de febrero de 2001