At first it just seemed like a regular traffic accident. A van had overturned and careered towards a sheer drop in the mountain pass of Puerto de la Mora, around 40 kilometers northeast of Granada. The van’s driver and its two passengers suffered only minor injuries.
But when the Civil Guard arrived on the scene at 5 am on May 9, the plot thickened.
We are trying to find a bank that is willing to take it and help us count it, but it is proving impossible because there is so much of it
Civil Guard source
Initially, they were met by a Lithuanian man and woman who were sent to hospital to be checked out. They then approached the vehicle, a green camper van that was precariously close to the edge of a fatal drop, and found a third Lithuanian man inside, under the effects of drugs and desperately searching the van.
He had also sustained minor injuries, and was sent to the hospital while the van was taken to the police headquarters in Granada to be searched. Authorities discovered a suitcase holding €18,000 inside. And further investigation revealed a stash of notes under one of the seats that could, according to the police, be worth anywhere between €400,000 and €4 million.
The three Lithuanians have denied that the money belongs to them
“We are trying to find a bank that is willing to take it and help us count it, but it is proving impossible because there is so much of it,” says a spokesman for the Civil Guard in Granada, explaining that the difficulty stems from security problems and the standard protocols for depositing that kind of money.
The three Lithuanians, none of whom have a criminal record, have denied that the money belongs to them. Unless the investigation turns up further evidence, they will simply be fined for money laundering, and have not been arrested. “We could assume that it was to buy merchandise of some kind, but there is no proof,” says a police spokesman.
The maximum amount of cash that can be transported legally in Spain is €100,000. A higher sum requires a certificate from the tax agency or customs. Carrying cash across the border into another country reduces that figure to €10,000. These legal limits were established to avoid money laundering and other serious crimes such as financing terrorism, according to the Civil Guard.
English version by Heather Galloway.