MS13 member captured in Spain

Police say a now dismantled cell of the MS13 in Spain was led by Salvadorans sent to set up a local branch of the notorious street gang, which if true would be confirmation the El Salvador mara is looking to establish European operations connected to their Latin American ones.

According to La Vanguardia, 300 Spanish national police arrested 35 members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) spread throughout the central and eastern provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona, Alicante and Madrid on March 24.

El Pais reported that the gang members were directed by two Salvadoran men aged around 40, one of whom operated in the port city of Alicante and the other in Barcelona. The gang was dedicated mainly to robbery and drug trafficking, but also tried to open restaurants and bars to launder money from the gang's Salvadoran operations, anonymous sources from the security forces told the newspaper.

SEE ALSO: MS13 Profile

The other members arrested were from various countries -- not only Spain, but Romania, Bulgaria, and Morocco, as well as Honduras and Ecuador. They are accused of robbery, intimidation and assault, among other crimes.

According to police, the operation, called "Cruasan" (Croissant), was the result of an investigation that began in 2012 after it was discovered the stabbing of a young man was connected to a fight between rival gangs.

InSight Crime Analysis

There have been indications of gangs operating in Europe under the names of Latin American street gangs, particularly the MS13 and their rivals Barrio 18, for some time. However, until now there has been a lack of evidence to suggest they were more than copy-cat operations or that they maintained any significant links with their counterparts in El Salvador (or other countries where these gangs are present).

If the claims of the Spanish authorities prove true, and this cell was led by Salvadorans who arrived in Spain specifically to set up a local MS13 branch that coordinated criminal operations with the Salvadoran MS13, then this is a worrying development. Not only would it mean the gangs are looking to establish a real presence in Europe, but it would also be an indicator of growing transnational sophistication.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of European Organized Crime

The question remains why the MS13 would look to gain a foothold in Europe. The main purpose of the operation appears to have been money laundering, and although Spain has well-established money laundering networks linked to the transnational drug trade, the dollarized economy and high levels of corruption in El Salvador would appear to make it a far more attractive criminal proposition.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...