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Spanish police said Thursday they had smashed one of Europe's largest counterfeit money rings that had made over eight million euros of fake cash.
The gang, based in Spain's eastern coast, is made "high quality" counterfeit 500-euro bills, they said, adding that 12 people had been arrested.
"This money was allegedly destined to commit different criminal activities, such as the purchase of drugs," a statement said.
The operation, carried out jointly with Catalan police and Europol, had "dismantled the most important and active laboratory in Europe dedicated to the production of fake 500-euro bills," it added.
Among those arrested was the man who allegedly printed the fake bills as well as the main distributors of the counterfeit cash.
Police launched an investigation in 2021 after fake 500-euro banknotes were found in circulation which were similar to those made by a ring that was dismantled a decade ago in the eastern region of Valencia.
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The probe gathered pace after a neighbour of one of the suspected members of the ring found a bag with 4.3 million euros in fake bills in front of his home near Barcelona, said the head of the counterfeit money unit of Catalonia's police force, Sergi Sanchez.
Some of the bills did not have "the holographic patch" that makes it possible to verify their authenticity, he told a Madrid news conference where counterfeit bills and seized machinery were displayed.
Jorge Ruiz, a lawyer at the Bank of Spain, said the counterfeit banknotes were of "very high quality" and virtually undetectable to the naked eye.