The Balearics have been caught up in a huge international stolen luxury car scandal. Over the past two years, police in Majorca have smashed two gangs of international professional car thieves as part of an international investigation launched in Spain and the Balearics in February 2000, which reached its climax this week. Yesterday Spanish police reported that they have arrested 52 people, most of them Estonians, as part of an international swoop on a gang stealing and smuggling luxury cars across Europe. As well as detaining 29 Estonians, five Spaniards, five Britons and 13 people of eight other nationalities, police seized 58 cars including Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes. In all, more than 75 people were arrested across Europe, but the centre of operations appeared to have been Spain with cars being stolen and cocaine smuggled along the Costa del Sol and in the Balearics. While police in the UK, Canada and Germany have rounded up suspects, the operation hub was in Spain where police have also carried out raids and made arrests in Barcelona and Marbella. Of the 92 top-of-the-range vehicles recovered in the global investigations, 58 were seized in Spain, including at least ten in Majorca. But not only were cars being stolen in Spain, it was to Spain and Africa where the stolen vehicles, with false documents, were then shipped to be sold, either on the open market or “to order.” The car thieves also took great care to make sure they were stealing luxury cars with low mileage. Spanish police chiefs yesterday stressed the importance the operations in Majorca, Malaga and Barcelona had on the success of the international investigation. Smashing the Spanish operation, enabled police and Europol to rumble the entire outfit. “We are dealing with a criminal organisation with its own pyramid-shaped hierarchy whose modus operandi consisted of stealing vehicles in the European Union and then transferring them either to Spain or to Africa for sale,” the Spanish Interior Ministry (Home Office) said in a statement. The gang are also suspected of involvement in cocaine trafficking on the south coast of Spain.

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