January 5, 2021

Operación Nongreta brings in three gun runners and uncovers one suspect's "museum" of Nazi-themed objects

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

Arrested in a complex multinational police action code-named Operación Nongreta one of three gun runners arrested in Spain at the end of December has been found to have maintained a "museum" of Nazi-themed objects, alongside a substantial arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

Within the framework of the year-long Nongreta operation, involving the Information Office (UCE3) of Spain's Civil Guard, with the support of the Bundeskriminalamt, (the German Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA), the Andalusian Area Information Section, the USECIC and the GEDEX of the Málaga Command, and members of the GAR and the Servicio Cinológico, law enforcement successfully dismantled an arms trafficking group known to be dealing with drug trafficking cells working the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar regions in the south of Spain.   

The operation, born out of a noticeable uptick in murders carried out during drug-related crimes committed on the Costa del Sol in the final stretch of 2019 using modified assault rifles, resulted in the arrested of three key actors - two German citizens and one British, who have each been charged with participation in an organized crime group, storing and trafficking of arms and ammunition, drug trafficking, and use of forged documents.  The arms traffickers are believed to have been in operation for at least three years, operating a sophisticated scheme which funnelled weaponry obtained from Eastern Europian countries, with access to the old Soviet arsenals, to drug traffickers in need of weaponry active in southern Spain. 

In breaking up the ring, investigators focused their attention on a seventy-year-old German citizen, a former gunsmith living in Coín on the pretext of being a simple foreign retiree. Through exchanges of information with Germany's Bundeskriminalamt, Spanish authorities were informed that the suspect had spent four years in prison for the illegal modification of weapons and also had a current outstanding European Arrest Warrant (EAW), after an arsenal was tied to him in a Hannover case in 2019.  In that case, a family member has already been sentenced to prison for their involvement.

In a subsequent search of this suspect's home in Coín, the Civil Guard, with the assistance of a firearm-sniffing K-9, found a sophisticated hidden workshop, complete with complex machinery, which tapped into the city's electrical grid in order to operate a milling lathe, column drills, a hydraulic press and a blueing oven, the latter used after erasing the serial numbers to restore the barrels of the weapons to almost mint condition.  This would make the weapons almost untraceable, and therefore a perfect weapon of choice in the clandestine arms market.

It was here that the suspect would modify weapons such as the Zastava M70, (Застава М70), a standard-issue domestic folding-stock Kalashnikov variant once used by the Yugoslav People's Army in 1970.  Short and easily concealable under a coat or loose jacket, the weapons are perfect for drug factions engaged in quick hits when fighting over competing turf.  The weapons had been purchased from collectors in Eastern Europe disassembled and were modified in the Spain workshop for resale. The second suspect, also a German citizen, is believed to have been responsible for the storage and concealment of the weapons in a rented warehouse. 

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

The Third Reich memorabilia was identified in a second suspect's home in Alhaurín el Grandes, a town located in the province of Málaga on the north side of the Sierra de Mijas.  There, the police found tables, shelves and display cases jammed with Nazi memorabilia including a portrait bust of Adolf Hitler, SS Uniforms, helmets, stick pins, insignias, medals, flags, and armbands of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, many of which were emblazoned in some way with a swastika or the Nazi eagle.

After a search of the suspect's home, officers moved on to a safe house he rented on the outskirts of the municipality.  It is in that rented warehouse where authorities uncovered an arsenal ready for sale.  There, law enforcement seized 160 firearms made up of 121 short weapons, 22 assault rifles and 8 submachine guns.  Along with the arms, officers recovered 9,967 rounds of ammunition of different calibres, eight silencers, 273 magazines, a grenade, and a kilo and a half of military explosives. 

Spanish newspapers have identified the holder of the Nazi memorabilia and the warehouse as a 54-year-old German named Tilo Kränzler, who publically claimed to be "the grandson of the real driver of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler" during an interview which can be found on the Radio Platja d'Aro program "Enigma Report." He is also known to have saught connections with a Spanish far-right group.

In addition to his involvement with arms selling, the Kränzler sold olive oil on eBay, and operated a stall which sold military and Nazi paraphernalia as well as T-shirts with the face of the Swedish activist and environmentalist Greta Thunberg with the label “persona Non Greta.” It was this play on words that became the code name for the UCE 3 of the Civil Guard's Operación Nongreta.

The third lead suspect is a British national who also resided in Coín, who acted as the group's intermediary in the sale between the arms dealers, taking a cut of the profits for the arms sold to drug traffickers working the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar.  Previously arrested for drug trafficking, this UK individual also using fake passports to hide his identity, several of which were recovered by law enforcement during the operation.

At the search of the British suspect's home, the Civil Guard recovered a pistol with its serial number erased and more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition. 

For now, the Court of Instruction of Coín has ordered that the three remain in custody pending trial while the hashish drug traffickers who operate in the Campo de Gibraltar area and to a large part of the mafias that have faced each other for years in Málaga's Costa del Sol will have a bit of difficulty stocking up on their firearms.

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

0 comments: