Adulterated saffron scam busted in Spain

Saffron's high price makes it a prime target for fraudsters – and it turns out is also a convenient way to launder the proceeds of organised crime.

Law enforcement in Spain has just exposed an example of just such a scheme, busting a criminal network that is suspected of having laundered millions of euros by trafficking adulterated, substandard saffron.

Backed by Europol, Spanish police swooped on a company based in Ciudad Real that imported saffron, mainly from Iran, and mixed it with other herbs and chemical additives like dyes – some not approved for food use – to increase their profit margins before exporting it.

The fraudsters falsely claimed that the saffron was cultivated in the famous La Mancha region, which has been awarded Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) status for the spice by the EU.

More than 500 shipments of this adulterated saffron have been identified, worth an estimated amount of €10m ($12m), according to Europol.

"The criminal network laundered their criminal proceeds through multiple bank transfers emanating from a Spanish company to different companies across the EU pretending to having bought this saffron," said the agency in a statement.

Transactions along that supply chain helped to create the illusion that the saffron was legitimate and dupe companies outside the network into paying top rate for the fraudulent spice.

"These companies were not in the import-export business, which raised suspicions," continued Europol. "The investigation into the transactions revealed a complex trade-based money laundering scheme set-up across the EU."

An operation carried out by Spanish police and tax authorities resulted in 17 arrests and the seizure of 400kg of saffron threads, along with machines for producing the counterfeit material kept in unsanitary conditions.

The gang is thought to have used the proceeds of the fraud to buy more than 35 properties in Spain, adding another layer to the money laundering element of the scam.

Related articles:

     Want our news sent directly to your inbox?

Yes please 2


Home  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Advertise  |  Links  |  Partners  |  Privacy Policy  |   |  RSS feed   |  back to top