Six Ukrainian, gasping for air, have been rescued from an illegal underground cigarette factory led by a British fugitive by Spanish police. The factory was had been operating for almost a year and generating interest of close to 6,000euros a week was only discovered after Spanish civil guards moved a shipping container with a forklift truck.

The men had been “left to die” and were gasping for air as the diesel generator that provided ventilation had run out of fuel. They had bunk beds that enabled them to sleep in the buildings. “The lack of oxygen would have led to considerable loss of life if police hadn’t discovered the factory in time”, said the Guardia Civil.

The ringleader, Daniel Dobbs, age 32, was a convicted drug trafficker from Malton, North Yorkshire, who had been on the run from British authorities after escaping from Hatfield-Lakes prison in South Yorkshire 2 years ago.

The underground bunker, the largest of its kind, was capable of producing 3,500 cigarettes in an hour.

A dozen of other properties in the area were raided by Spanish authorities, seizing 153,000 packs of cigarettes ready for sale in Britain as counterfeit Cartel brand products. They equally found 20 tonnes of chopped tobacco, 144kg of marijuana, 20kilos of hashish and an interior cannabis estate.

Report from Europol holds that the gang was making £530,000 in profit per week.

The head of the Guardia Civil, Carlos Gallego, reported that his crew had been investigating the gang since June 2019 with aid from Europol.

“The site chosen was the perfect place for the organization to set up its clandestine factory. It’s a complex place and you cannot begin to imagine the difficulties we had locating it and establishing exactly what type of criminal activity was going on here,” Carlos Gallego affirms.

The alleged leaders of the gang lived in large villas on the Costa del Sol, while the men who worked in the factory lived in conditions of “semi-slavery”, a source at the financial crimes unit at Spain’s Civil Guard reported.

Earlier this month, the Spanish police had arrested 20 people, including 11 Britons who were thought of running operation but none of them mentioned that six Ukrainian workers were still trapped inside leaving “they abandoned to their fate”, a Guardia civil spokesman said.

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