Police arrest international gang in $686 million medicinal cannabis scam

  • World
  • Saturday, 13 Apr 2024

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police said on Saturday it led an international operation to arrest a gang which allegedly defrauded 645 million euros ($686.41 million) from victims in 35 countries in a scam centred around cannabis plants for medicinal use.

The gang mounted a marketing system and attended international cannabis fairs to convince victims from countries including Spain, France and Germany to invest in the system, the Spanish National Police said in a statement.

It led the operation with the help of Europol and forces from Germany, France, the Dominican Republic, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Nine suspects, who have not been named, were detained on suspicion of fraud in Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

"The business model offered by this organization consisted of using the capital transferred from investors to develop partnerships to finance the cultivation of cannabis plants," Silvia Garrido, Spanish police spokeswoman said.

"With this system, they promised victims profits of between 70% and 168% per year, depending on the species of cannabis in which they invested."

Luxury cars, hotel parties and music videos were used in an advertising campaign to promote the scheme, police said, and victims were taken to legal cannabis plantations which were involved in the scam.

Police carried out raids in 2022 but did not say if any suspects have been charged with any offences.

Police blocked bank accounts containing 58,600.00 euros and 116,300.00 euros in crypto currencies, and 106,000 euros in cash was recovered. Properties worth 2.6 billion euros were seized.

($1 = 0.9397 euros)

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; editing by Clelia Oziel)

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