Drug offences


• Importation/exportation

Money laundering

Participation in an organized criminal group

Trafficking in firearms


• Illicit trafficking (Article 3(e))

Operation SHOVEL

Fact Summary

Starting in 2006 and linked to a well-known family clan, a series of violent acts related to Irish citizens in Costa del Sol was carried out, involving known criminals from Ireland.

The police investigation identified a complex corporate structure used by this organization to channel the proceeds from criminal activities, among them drug and arms trafficking, kidnapping, counterfeiting, smuggling of vehicles, murders and money laundering.

Information was exchanged at a later stage with police in the United Kingdom, which showed that the organization was involved in criminal activities in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands.

For this reason, a coordination meeting was held in June 2008 in the Europol headquarters, in order to exchange police intelligence. The participation of this criminal organization in the laundering of proceeds from the drug and arms traffic was highlighted during this meeting.

The organized group is perfectly structured, lead, and controlled by one leader in close collaboration with his two sons. One of the sons is in charge of the drug trafficking activities and the other one takes care of the administrative and financial aspects of the operations.

Spain took over the police operation, since one of the main members of the organization was located in Spain, where he would direct and control criminal activities around the world.

The investigation focused on the criminal activities of a Spanish citizen who centralized the banking activities, the establishment of relationships with financial institutions, the involvement of law firms specialized in the creation of complex corporate structures, and the execution of public acts and constitution and representation of corporations.

Throughout the investigation, numerous police investigative activities were carried out, e.g: analysis of police databases, analysis of public documents, surveillance and monitoring, wiretapping, analysis of criminal intelligence and exchange of intelligence through international cooperation.

The collaboration with Europol, Interpol, Eurojust, police liaisons in other countries, etc. should be highlighted.

35 people were arrested and over one hundred luxury properties were seized, besides cash, bank accounts, luxury vehicles and weapons.

The organization was involved in criminal activities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain. It had international branches in more than 20 countries around the world, where they would launder the proceeds of their illicit activities (Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Morocco, South Africa, China, Dubai, Panama, Dominican Republic, Brazil and the United States).

Commentary and Significant Features

Some of the lessons learned in order to improve this kind of operation are:

- Every country should have police units specialized in money laundering.

- This type of investigation should be carried out by specialized courts and prosecutors.

- These specialized courts, prosecutors and police units should be able to receive specific information for the fight against organized crime.

- European and international legislation dealing with the fight against money laundering should be harmonized.

- Specialized investigators’ access to sources of information in the financial sector (financial, fiscal, etc.) should be immediate and direct, without having to go through security access protocols, legalities or controls.

- The exchange of operative information at the European and international level should be enhanced and simplified. Although there are different directives that regulate the exchange, there are still difficulties and delays in the processing of information. In order to achieve a quicker exchange of information with other countries, specific points of contact should be created.

- Legislative changes in relation to seizure, confiscation or freezing of assets, and lowering the standards of necessary evidence for its effective use.

- Every country should have an ARO (Asset Recovery Office), with effective operational capacity in order to facilitate and expedite the exchange of information on ownership of properties and financial assets, with a secure and agile communication system (for European countries SIENA – EUROPOL).

- Every country should have an AMO (Asset Management Office). The profitability of assets seized from the criminal organization should be enhanced in order for it to be reinvested in society, reducing the damages caused by criminal activities and helping the fight against organized crime.

- Provision of special technical means and tools that speed up and facilitate the access to, and processing of, information in this kind of long and complex investigations.

UNODC / United Nations Online Volunteers

The translation of this operation was kindly prepared by United Nations Online Volunteers

Cross Cutting


... as involves

• participant, facilitator, accessory
• principal offender(s)
• financier
• organiser/director



• occurred across one (or more) international borders (transnationally)
• involved an organized criminal group (Article 2(a) CTOC)

Involved Countries












South Africa


United Arab Emirates


Dominican Republic


United States of America

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland




• electronic or other forms of surveillance

Analysis of police databases at a national and international level, analysis of numerous public documents (commercial, land and property registries, notary records, etc.) surveillance and tracing, cross border surveillance, wiretapping, exchange of information with other involved countries, analysis of criminal intelligence, and border control. 

Through Europol a working group was created and channels for the exchange of information and coordination meetings were established. A file storage unit was created for the coordination of received intelligence.

Europol positioned mobile offices on the day of the operation.


International Cooperation

Involved Countries

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland



• International law enforcement cooperation (including INTERPOL)
• Mutual legal assistance
• International cooperation for confiscation/asset recovery

A coordination meeting was held in order to incorporate police intelligence gathered throughout the involved countries, as well as to establish tasks and ways to move forward with the investigation.

Police ties were established in order to have direct communication between investigators, and a file was created where all the information pertaining to the case would be introduced. This allowed for a broader knowledge of the criminal background of members of the organization.


Procedural Information

Legal System:
Civil Law
Latest Court Ruling:
Court of 1st Instance
Type of Proceeding:

The defendants are currently on probation awaiting trial.

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