Spain
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    Profile

    Spain

    Capital

    Madrid

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 1,393,490.52 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    47,133,521

    Area

    505,957 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    5.78

    Criminality score

    55th of 193 countries

    7th of 44 countries in Europe

    2nd of 8 countries in Southern Europe

    Criminal market

    5.30

    Human trafficking

    7.00

    Human smuggling

    7.00

    Arms trafficking

    4.00

    Flora crimes

    3.50

    Fauna crimes

    5.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    2.00

    Heroin trade

    6.50

    Cocaine trade

    7.00

    Cannabis trade

    7.00

    Synthetic drug trade

    4.00

    Criminal actors

    6.25

    Mafia-style groups

    6.00

    Criminal networks

    6.50

    State-embedded actors

    5.00

    Foreign actors

    7.50

    6.63

    Resilience score

    27th of 193 countries

    20th of 44 countries in Europe

    1st of 8 countries in Southern Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    6.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    6.00

    International cooperation

    8.00

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    7.00

    Law enforcement

    8.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.50

    Anti-money laundering

    6.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00

    Victim and witness support

    6.50

    Prevention

    5.00

    Non-state actors

    7.00

    6.63 6.25 5.30 6.63 6.25 5.30

    6.63

    Resilience score

    27th of 193 countries

    20th of 44 countries in Europe

    1st of 8 countries in Southern Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    6.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    6.00

    International cooperation

    8.00

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    7.00

    Law enforcement

    8.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.50

    Anti-money laundering

    6.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00

    Victim and witness support

    6.50

    Prevention

    5.00

    Non-state actors

    7.00

    Analysis

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    People

    Spain plays a major role in transnational human-trafficking markets, operating predominantly as a destination country. Sex trafficking constitutes the most widespread form of human trafficking in Spain. Networks of Spanish and Chinese traffickers dominate the prostitution market in large urban centres, such as Madrid and Barcelona, as well as other large cities such as Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Girona. Many (but not all) sex-trafficking victims are foreign nationals, coming from China, Nigeria and Romania, among other countries. Human trafficking in the form of forced labour is also prominent in Spain. Criminal networks with nodes in both Spain and the victims’ countries of origin control the trafficking of victims into the country, often promising economic opportunities in sectors such as agriculture, construction, domestic work and shoe manufacturing. In that respect, the Nigerian and Romanian mafia are especially prominent on the sex trafficking market.

    Spain is a significant transit and destination country in the transnational human-smuggling market. Smuggling networks exploit the proximity between Africa and Spain to smuggle individuals across the Mediterranean, often via the so-called Western Mediterranean route. Many migrants arrive in Spain via its eastern and southwestern coasts, including from Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara. The Canary Islands are also an important transit point. Foreign criminal networks play an important role in Spain's human-smuggling industry, with migrant-smuggling networks and groups operating mainly outside of Spanish borders. Several criminal networks combine human-smuggling activities with drug trafficking and money laundering, and there is a notable crossover between the criminal markets for human smuggling and human trafficking.

    Trade

    Arms trafficking is not a particularly prevalent or pervasive market in Spain, and rates of gun ownership are relatively low. The criminal market for illegal small arms and light weapons is controlled mainly by local criminal networks that acquire non-registered weapons at the French border or assemble separate parts obtained on the deep web. To a limited extent, Spain is a transit country for illicit firearms destined for various countries in North Africa, as well as further south on the African continent.

    Environment

    Due to its geographical location, Spain plays a key role in criminal markets for fauna and flora. As an entry point into Europe, Spain is a hotspot in the international illegal trafficking of tropical timber. Much of the illegally harvested timber imported into Europe via Spain comes from South and Central America, as well as from Africa. Spain is a transit and destination country for illegal trade in ornamental plants. International criminals manage the trafficking of protected species of plants to and through Spain as part of a larger network that includes fauna-related crimes. Spain is also a key entry point for trafficked wildlife products into Europe, particularly from Africa and Latin America. Criminal networks operating in this market are based in Spain but have operations in other EU countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary and Portugal. Various high-profile law-enforcement investigations have revealed several organized-crime networks engaging in wildlife trafficking, including trafficking in birds, reptiles, tortoises, eels and ivory products. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing remains an issue, but the Spanish authorities have made considerable efforts to counter this, resulting in a diminished market.

    There is little evidence to suggest that Spain plays anything but a negligible role in any of the criminal markets for non-renewable resources. There have been reports of isolated cases of diamond and gold smuggling, but none of the major routes go through Spain.

    Drugs

    The cocaine trade is the most pervasive drug market in Spain, and constitutes one of the largest organized-crime threats in the country. Spain is a major transit country for cocaine destined for elsewhere in Europe – and with a substantial consumer base, the country constitutes a sizable destination market. The cocaine trade involves a number of different organized-crime groups of both domestic and foreign origin – including Italian, Colombian and Balkan-based mafia-style groups. These organizations are believed to bribe customs officials, who then allow cocaine shipments into Spain and thus the EU. The majority of cocaine entering Spain used to arrive directly from Latin America, entering the country in containers arriving at Spanish ports. While these direct routes are still active, cocaine shipments now often transit through West Africa before reaching Spain. There is a high demand for cocaine in Spain as a whole, but particularly in the larger cities and on islands such as Tenerife, Ibiza and Mallorca. Barcelona has one of the highest rates of cocaine consumption of any city in Europe. Spain continues to be one of the main entry points into Europe for cannabis. Cannabis seizures are higher in Spain than anywhere else in Western Europe, and evidence suggests that the country’s criminal market for cannabis is among the largest and most profitable on the continent. Cannabis typically enters Spain via Gibraltar, the Costa del Sol or the coast of western Andalucía (with Cadiz, in particular, being a hotspot). Marijuana and hashish are the most consumed illicit substances in Spain. Recent years have seen a sharp rise in domestically cultivated cannabis, with criminal organizations exploiting the economic crisis in the country by employing low-income or unemployment-affected households to grow cannabis for them. A number of criminal actors are involved in the Spanish market for cannabis, including those of French, Algerian, Moroccan, British and Spanish origin. Some criminal organizations even bring workers from Vietnam to grow cannabis in Spain.

    Spain is an important destination country for heroin and has a fairly high rate of local consumption. Heroin often arrives in Spain via land or seaports in Galicia. Flows of heroin are controlled for the most part by criminal groups from countries involved in earlier stages of the supply chain – in particular, Turkey and Albania. Organized crime groups from the Dominican Republic and Pakistan engage in the heroin trade, especially in its retail. Spain is also a destination country for synthetic drugs. The criminal market for synthetic drugs in Spain gravitates around the larger cities and has a relatively young consumer base. Though local production of amphetamines and methamphetamines has been found in Madrid, Malaga and Alicante, as well as in the northern border region between the Basque Country and Cantabria, Spain is far from being a significant producer of synthetic drugs and relies on supply from source countries such as the Netherlands and China.

    Criminal Actors

    The criminal ecosystem in Spain is dominated by foreign mafia-style groups of Italian, Russian, Nigerian, Albanian, Colombian, Georgian, Turkish, Armenian, Serbian, Mexican, Dutch and Chinese origin, all of which have a sustained presence in the country. These organizations tend to be very specialized, focusing on specific markets (and even specific functions in the supply chain of these markets) and geographical areas. For example, Italian and Colombian mafia-style groups control a substantial part of the cocaine trade; Turkish and Balkan groups control the heroin market; Romanian, Chinese and Nigerian organizations control human trafficking; and Moroccan and French-Algerian groups exercise heavy influence over the cannabis market. Mafia-style groups of domestic origin are generally less influential than their foreign counterparts. The most potent Spanish mafia-style groups are Galicia-based clans such as Los Charlines, the Ourbiña and the Miñanco. Often collaborating with foreign actors, these clans are heavily engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. Los Castañas is another mafia-style group that has traditionally wielded significant power and influence in Spain’s criminal markets, but as is the case with some of the Galician clans, the group has lost many members in recent years.

    In addition to foreign and domestic mafia-style groups, there are a vast number of smaller, more decentralized criminal groups and networks that operate throughout Spain, working in a wide array of markets, including the smuggling of humans and arms, and trading illegally in tobacco. Several cases in recent years have implicated state actors in money laundering and drug trafficking. However, there is no evidence of a structured relationship between state-embedded actors and organized crime, or of the widespread and systematized engagement of government officials in criminal markets.

    Leadership and governance

    In recent years, the Spanish government has prioritized tackling organized crime, adopting a National Strategy against Organised and Serious Crime for the period 2019–2023. However, there are still gaps in the government's response to organized crime, with issues of institutional coordination and persistent corruption. Reports refer to foreign mafia-style groups infiltrating politics at the local level, and an official investigation has been launched against the new president of Catalonia. Nonetheless, levels of corruption in Spain are generally considered moderate and, while the government could improve on its transparency, its institutional and legal anti-corruption framework is largely capable of combating corruption and ensuring convictions.

    Spain has ratified key international treaties on organized crime, such as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption, and complies broadly with international standards of countering organized crime as set out in these and other key treaties. It is also party to a number of multilateral extradition agreements, such as the European Arrest Warrant and the European Convention on Extradition, and has bilateral agreements with the US, Canada, Australia, Morocco, Liberia, Argentina, Mexico, Peru and others. Spain also participates in several international anti-organized-crime task forces and initiatives on areas such as maritime security. The Spanish government has made significant efforts to adopt legislation that responds adequately to the threat posed by organized crime in the country. In the past decade, new legislation has been introduced to strengthen the country’s legal framework in areas such as human trafficking; and the penal code, which was reformed in 2010, has been updated subsequently with provisions to counter key criminal markets.

    Criminal justice and security

    Spain’s judiciary is independent, and its courts and law-enforcement institutions generally uphold standards for due process. However, there have been cases where the judiciary’s independence (and thus capacity to prosecute high-profile corruption allegations) has been in question. Although Spanish prisons meet most international standards, prison conditions are not always adequate. Overcrowding has been reported in some instances, and healthcare standards inside some detention facilities have been found to be lacking. Spanish law-enforcement agencies have a number of specialized units dedicated to issues of organized crime. These include the Centre for Intelligence against Terrorism and Organized Crime; specific agencies and institutional bodies dedicated to addressing different criminal markets, such as the Nature Protection Service for environmental crimes; and specialized departments within the police force to counter drug and arms trafficking. Border control is also seen as an important feature of Spain’s fight against transnational organized crime, with over a thousand federal police and Guardia Civil officers patrolling the border crossing points at Ceuta and Melilla. Spain's geographical location makes the country vulnerable to the irregular movement of commodities and people, which has proven difficult to curb.

    Economic and financial environment

    Spain's economic and regulatory environment is highly conducive to doing business, but its economic performance continues to suffer from issues such as an extremely high youth-unemployment rate and a very limited fiscal space, problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, Spain has a sizeable informal economy, estimated at over a fifth of the country’s GDP, which allows for considerable infiltration of the formal economy by organized-crime actors.

    Although Spain is fairly resilient to money laundering and terrorist financing, efforts have been made to strengthen its capacity to tackle these issues – for instance, by creating the Commission for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Offences. Nevertheless, law enforcement still lacks asset-seizure mechanisms and the capacity to carry out financial investigations. Spain’s property market and private sector is especially vulnerable to money laundering.

    Civil society and social protection

    Spain’s witness-protection law, adopted in 1994, is outdated and provides inadequate safety guarantees for the witnesses of crimes. In 2015, the government introduced legislation to address victim care in relation to human trafficking. While these measures constitute a significant improvement, few victims of human trafficking are ever identified. Spanish law enforcement has set out new crime-prevention strategies and begun implementing a variety of related programmes. Although they are still in their early stages, they signal a trend towards a more preventive approach.

    Civil liberties such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are generally respected in Spain. Spanish civil society is vibrant, and national and international non-governmental organizations carry out important crime-prevention and anti-corruption programmes, as well as advocacy campaigns. Press freedom is respected and the media in Spain reports on organized crime without fear of retaliation. Nevertheless, in recent years some journalists have been demonized, particularly in the context of political polarization and friction between Catalonia and the central government.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.