Spanish National police have arrested around 50 people suspected of membership of a Georgian gang thought to be behind more than 100 home burglaries in Spain. The raids took place in the provinces of Madrid and Barcelona on Tuesday and targeted 25 properties, with further arrests expected to follow in Georgia. An arrest warrant has also been put out for the gang’s alleged leader, known by the name Spartak J. who is thought to be in Italy. According to La Vanguargia, the gang being targeted is one the most active Georgian criminal organisations involved in international robberies. The operation was carried by the Central Organized Crime and Judicial Police brigades of Madrid and was coordinated by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. A Europol mobile office and several French police attached to the Organized Crime Unit were also involved, as were two Spanish agents operating in Georgia.
Georgian crime gangs settled along Spain’s Mediterranean coast in 2008, specialising in the theft of watches, jewelry and electronics to be sold on the black market in Georgia. The gangs also laundered money through numerous businesses including a string of restaurants they owned around Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas promenade. The latest crackdown by Spanish authorities on Georgian gangs began in 2016 with the murder of Gera Garishvili in the Catalan city of Terrassa, which is thought to have been carried out by a rival Georgian gang operating in France. More than sixty people have been detained since the beginning of that investigation and property worth some €24 million has been seized, including a shopping center, a hotel, thirty houses, garages and commercial premises, mostly in the Catalonia region.
Georgian organised crime groups operate throughout Europe. Earlier this month 27 Georgian’s were arrested in Paris following a joint investigation between French and Georgian police. They were charged with property theft, an activity they engaged in on a daily basis, according to a statement by the Georgian Interior Ministry. Police found large amounts of cash, guns, fake documents and lock-picking equipment in searches of the defendant’s properties.
Similar raids took place in Italy and Germany last march against a gang suspected of burgling 85 apartments since 2015 using the so-called “Bulgarian key”, a tool that allows thieves to capture the imprint of any lock and make new keys based on that imprint. The gang are suspected of having operated in the areas of Turin, Savona, Alessandria, Cuneo and Pavia for several years.