International mafias leave a trail of death on the Costa del Sol

Murders of four men in broad daylight highlight how southern coast remains a magnet for crime

Bar in the Elviria district of Marbella where a man was shot down Saturday.
Bar in the Elviria district of Marbella where a man was shot down Saturday.alf / efe

All the experts agree: Spain’s Costa del Sol is the ideal safe haven for members of organized crime gangs. Foreign criminals easily blend into a cosmopolitan crowd, where people hail from dozens of different countries and live in residential estates that offer much-appreciated isolation from prying eyes.

Analysts add other favorable circumstances, such as the proximity of an international airport, easy escape routes by sea, and proximity to British territory Gibraltar.

Everything goes smoothly until there is a murder – typically score-settling between gangs over drug trafficking. The incident raises public awareness for a while, then everything goes back to normal — until the next act of revenge.

Four men have been killed over the last year in the Marbella area, on Spain’s south coast, while others were given “warnings” via gunshot wounds to their arms and legs. The last two murders took place within nine days of one another.

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In the early morning of August 28, a man was shot down at a street café in Benahavís, in a restaurant area located inside a luxury estate, by two individuals who drove up in a car. The victim was carrying no ID, but was described as hailing from northern Africa.

An on Saturday, a 44-year-old Irishman was shot several times inside a pub in Elviria, east of Marbella, in the same part of town that just hosted the 19th Foro España-Estados Unidos, an international gathering of political and business leaders. This victim was attacked shortly before 5pm by two masked individuals who fled on foot, according to the newspaper Sur.

Earlier, in February of this year, a French-Algerian man was gunned down inside his Marbella estate as he was driving his three children to school. And in August 2013, another man from northern Africa was shot dead in front of his wife and two children inside his car, right on Marbella’s upmarket Golden Mile.

Last year, around 20 countries were conducting criminal investigations with ties to Málaga province. Only Madrid and Barcelona receive more requests for investigative assistance from foreign law enforcement agencies.

The Málaga Attorney’s Office received 164 requests for help investigating individuals, property or bank accounts, and that figure has been steadily rising in recent years.

The main types of crime under scrutiny are money laundering, drug trafficking and fraud.