Spanish police arrested 17 suspected members of a prison community that allegedly made about 10 million euro (greater than US$12 million) mixing saffron with different herbs and chemical compounds and promoting it as pure, high-quality saffron, Europol mentioned.
The organized crime group offered saffron imported from Iran and relabelled as a top-quality product from La Mancha, a area in central Spain the place the native spice manufacturing has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certificates.
Other than mixing it with different herbs to extend the amount, the suspects reportedly additionally used colorants banned within the European Union and the USA to dye the ultimate product and make it appear like the professional spice, Spanish police mentioned in a press release.
The suspects face cash laundering, smuggling, tax fraud fees.
Authorities additionally seized almost half a ton of saffron threads, machines for counterfeiting the spice, luxurious cars, jewellery and 14,500 euro (some $17,600) in money.
After looking premises throughout the Ciudad Actual and Albacete areas, police additionally discovered greater than two tons of Iranian saffron and an unlawful workshop that criminals used to pack and label their product.
As soon as having made revenue, the group allegedly laundered it utilizing a posh scheme that concerned a number of financial institution transfers to totally different corporations throughout the EU from a Spanish enterprise that may be pretending to have purchased the adulterated spice.
Commercializing fraudulent spices is seen as a worthwhile enterprise to many meals criminals.
The European Fee ranked spices and herbs the sixth most adulterated meals in Europe, in response to its 2019 annual meals fraud community report. Other than deceptive clients, these counterfeit merchandise pose a severe danger to well being as substances used to make spices look professional are sometimes poisonous.
Amongst all spices, saffron is essentially the most interesting to criminals. Its harvest is restricted whereas its manufacturing is dear, making it the most costly spice worldwide.
Saffron adultering is a typical drawback native producers from La Mancha have fought for years. In 2014, police dismantled a prison group that commercialized the pretend product as genuine and scammed tons of of shoppers. Native producers mentioned that in 2013 they grew almost 1,700 kilograms of saffron threads beneath the PDO certificates, whereas Spain reported exporting about 11,000 kilograms.