16 Arrested as Police Uncover Network of Olive Thieves Outside Madrid

Spain’s Guardia Civil seized 6,000 liters of olive oil likely made from stolen olives.
By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 20, 2023 13:32 UTC

Sixteen peo­ple have been arrested and another five are under inves­ti­ga­tion for steal­ing recently-har­vested olives from a farmer’s groves in the autonomous com­mu­nity of Madrid.

The arrests came after the Guardia Civil, a branch of the armed forces that acts in a polic­ing capac­ity, raided two olive mills allegedly used for trans­form­ing the stolen fruit in the Toledo and Guadalajara regions.

In a state­ment, the law enforce­ment orga­ni­za­tion said the arrested indi­vid­u­als would be charged with theft, fraud and pos­ses­sion of stolen goods.”

See Also:Olive Oil Consumption Slumps in Europe as High Prices Persist

During the raids, the Guardia Civil also seized sev­eral tanks con­tain­ing at least 6,000 liters of olive oil and doc­u­men­ta­tion of more than 17,500 kilo­grams of stolen olives.

The oper­a­tion started in January when a farmer from Brea de Tajo, south­east of Madrid, reported 8,400 kilo­grams of olives stolen.

Using infor­ma­tion obtained from secu­rity devices on the farm and five oth­ers in the area that also reported thefts, the Guardia Civil appre­hended five peo­ple trans­port­ing more than 140 kilo­grams of olives in early February. The sus­pects were detained after fail­ing to pro­vide paper­work prov­ing the ori­gin of the olives.

Widespread and well-orga­nized olive thefts have become increas­ingly com­mon in Spain as crim­i­nals take advan­tage of record-high olive oil prices.

According to Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, olive oil prices con­tinue steadily ris­ing. Ministry data show that extra vir­gin olive oil prices at the ori­gin and vir­gin olive oil prices at the ori­gin rose again at the begin­ning of March.

Extra vir­gin olive oil is sell­ing for €528.72 per 100 kilo­grams, a slight increase com­pared to the pre­vi­ous week, 28 per­cent above the start of the crop year and nearly dou­ble what prices were two years ago.

Virgin olive oil prices – now €491.96 per 100 kilo­grams – have risen in a sim­i­lar fash­ion. Refined olive oil and lam­pante olive oil prices fell at the begin­ning of March but are also well above what they were last year and the year before.

As a result, olive grow­ers from Granada to Madrid have reported a wave of thefts this year. Along with stolen olives, thefts often result in dam­age to trees which can pre­vent them from devel­op­ing olives in the fol­low­ing crop year.

Authorities have stepped up their efforts to com­bat olive thefts in the past two years. Last year, the Guardia Civil recov­ered nearly 204,000 kilo­grams of stolen olives in the Andalusian province of Jaén, dis­man­tling two orga­nized crim­i­nal net­works.

However, agri­cul­tural asso­ci­a­tions say report­ing thefts is slow, time-con­sum­ing and rarely results in com­pen­sa­tion. Therefore, they believe the amount of theft is far higher due to many farm­ers fail­ing to report thefts.


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