28 Feb

Spain: Arrests reveal major black market for stolen olives in the Antequera area

C. Martín / J.Cano

Nine Rumanians, resident in Fuente de Piedra, have been accused of stealing thousands of kilos of olives and selling them for sums below the market price.

Criminal organisations operating in Andalucía have found a new way of getting rich quick in the area’s abundant olive harvest. The Guardia Civil has recently arrested nine members of a criminal organisation based in Fuente de Piedra. Operating in five different provinces the gang stole olives from mills and stores and sold them on for less than the market price.
The nine, all Rumanians belonging to the same family clan, are accused of 17 thefts of olives in Cordoba, Jaén, Malaga, Granada and Seville as well as stealing 18 vehicles. On one occasion some 20,000 kilos of olives were stolen in Cuevas de San Marcos.

The Guardia Civil code-named their operation “Oro Verde” (green gold) and soon discovered the modus operandi of the olive thieves. The gang operated at night every two to three days after carefully studying the country lanes in the targeted area to be familiar with all the possible escape routes. The vans or lorries used were stolen on the same night as the olives were taken from mills or stores. The fruit was then sold on that same night for prices way below the 40 cents farmers normally receive for a kilo. “It is rumoured that the points where these olives were bought and sold were in Fuente de Piedra itself, in Los Corrales or Casariche among other places. The truth is that if this black market did not exist there would not be so much theft in the Antequera area”, said Carlos Blázquez, the provincial secretary of the growers’ association Asaja.

The nine Rumanians arrested recently did not reveal the names of their buyers because “they are scared of them”, said sources from the Guardia Civil.

The investigation has led officers to recover 90,000 kilos of stolen fruit, which has been returned to its owners, although it is thought that the gang is responsible for stealing 170,000 kilos.Officers seized 4,025 euros in cash, two vehicles, 26 mobile phones, a computer and other stolen goods in the operation.

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