JUST yards from the hotels and high-end bars in the glamorous tourist resorts, Swedish gangs run riot in the south of Spain.
All summer long holidaymakers relax along the coast, oblivious to the dangers lurking beneath the shine of Europe’s top holiday destinations.
Behind the glamorous veneer of these sun-soaked hot spots, gangs from the north of Europe are exposing families to a murky world of danger.
This is the Costa del Sol: a haven for A-list stars and footballers and a top destination for holidaymakers wanting to rub shoulders with the rich and famous under the Spanish sun.
But beyond the facade of superyachts and fast cars, ruthless gangs from Sweden have moved in, working in underground networks gunning for a slice of its multi-million euro drugs trade and hiding from the law.
Marbella has become the ‘logistical centre’ for criminal gangs from the Nordic country according to a damning report published by El Pais.
The newspaper wrote that gangs have moved ‘their activity to this corner of the province of Malaga in the last five years and with them, they have brought their extremely violent tactics’.
“In Spain it is easier to live with a criminal record and spend money earned with crime,” said Diamant Salihu, a journalist specializing in organized crime in Sweden.
Data shows that Sweden is one of the most dangerous countries in Europe, with some of the highest rates of deaths from shootings and more than 200 fatal gun victims in the last five years. In 2020 the record was broken with 48 murders, the vast majority related to the dispute over the drug trafficking market.
Describing Sweden as having ‘a serious problem with organised crime’ saidManne Gerell, Professor of Criminology at the Swedish University of Malmo and he believes Sweden’s drug kingpins are moving their operations to Malaga.
“They want to be closer to drug distributors because that gives more benefits,” said Gerell.
A favourite haunt of celebrities since the 1960s, Marbella is a firm favourite with the cast of TOWIE and is a great place to spot a millionaire (or ten).
But Gerell said that the decadent mansions and the privacy they afford have also made it a top destination for a myriad of gangs from Sweden.
A review of police operations on the Costa del Sol shows there have been more than a hundred arrests of members of gangs based in Sweden since 2018, including the capture of Amir Mekky.
Mekky, who ran a network of hitmen linked to scores of deaths in Sweden, was captured in connection with the murder of Sofian Mohamed who was assassinated in his luxury villa in Estepona and David Avila, who was killed just outside the church where his son’s communion had been celebrated in San Pedro, Alcantara.
Investigators from the Costa del Sol Drugs and Organized Crime Unit (Udyco), the Organized Crime Response Group (Greco) and the Specialized and Violent Crime Unit (Udev) are all committed to bringing an end to gang violence but struggle to keep up as more and more criminals move into the area.
“There are resources, but they are never enough,” a Udyco Central official told El Pais.
Most concerning for residents on the Costa del Sol is what the increased presence of gangs do to the area once considered paradise by many.
As more criminals move in, police have seen an escalation in violence and a spate of murders.
While figures are not yet available for 2020-2021, the 15 killings in the Malaga region in 2019 was almost double what it was in 2017. Seven of those were in Marbella – and all linked to organised crime.
“Now the violence is rampant,” added Antonio Rodríguez Puerta, head of the UDYCO Costa del Sol (Drugs and Organized Crime Unit of the National Police).
“In times gone by the criminal groups negotiated, they talked. A stash was lost and an agreement was reached,”
“Now we see that, if something like this happens, in most cases they go directly to ordering a hit.”