The ‘Oligarch’ Special Operation: What’s Going on in Spain?
This week, Spain grabbed the attention of the Russian audience not only due to freedom-loving Catalonia, but also because of the news from the trial of the so-called "Russian mafia". Several "bosses" – these days known as big businessmen – are waiting for a sentence for money laundering. The whole thing has been going on for ten years and can make a decent detective series. Katerina Karaseva recalls the details of the case and explains the involvement of the higher echelons of the Russian establishment.
Russians "in law" (from a "thief in law" which means criminal of a gang) started moving to sunny Spain in the 1990s: some were hiding from persecution, some left to legitimize their hard-earned illegal income. At the moment, several criminal cases dealing with the "Russian mafia" are in progress. The most high-profile one concerns Tambov's organized crime group led by Gennady Petrov. Since 2012, 15 people suspected of having links with an organized criminal group have been placed on the international wanted list. They are charged with involvement in the criminal community and money laundering.
Spanish investigators found that the criminals established a network of hundreds of companies in the country. The companies formalized real estate and then resold it many times at an increasing price through shell companies. Simply put, they sold everything to themselves, which is the definition of money laundering. "Pure" money went to Panama and Liechtenstein. Spanish law enforcement authorities believe that the money was received from drug smuggling, arms trafficking and corrupt ‘connections trading’.
Also, Solntsevskaya and Izmaylovskaya OCGs turned out to be involved in the case. In Russia once, they used to be competitors, but in Spain they managed to become partners. At the beginning of 2016, another 12 people joined the list of the wanted ones: among them, in particular, there were ex-deputy head of the Investigative Committee Igor Sobolevsky, State Duma deputy Vladislav Reznik (from 1999 to this day), his wife Diana Gindin and deputy director of the Federal Drug Control Service Nikolay Aulov.
Aulov’s department said that the court's ruling on his arrest was ‘legally unprofessional political put-up job.’ The Russian side is in no hurry to neither give, nor at least check “their people”. In the Duma, they announced that they hoped the incident would come to ought "due to the lack of reasons for bringing Reznik to responsibility."
The Spaniards, however, came to the conclusion that Reznik is responsible for both legal and illegal actions – trading connections, confidential information, etc. in the highest instances of the Russian Federation, acting in the interests of Petrov and his subordinate organization. Vladislav Reznik is on good terms with Ilya Traber, leader of the Vyborg criminal group, and with Anatoly Serdyukov (the former Defense Minister), Viktor Zubkov (the former Russian Prime Minister) and Boris Gryzlov (the former speaker of the State Duma),’ reads the indictment of 2015.
Leader of the Tambovskaya OCG Gennady Petrov was detained by the Spanish police in 2008 during the operation called Troika. In 2010, he was released on bail, and in 2012 he went to Russia and has since lived in St. Petersburg.
WHAT HAPPENED THIS SEPTEMBER?
On September 26, 2017, Spanish law enforcers reported on the operation called 'Oligarch' which took place in the province of Malaga. 18 searches were carried out, and 11 people were detained. President of Marbella Football Club Alexander Grinberg was among the detained. According to the report of the Spanish Civil Guard, the operation has been prepared for about four years, and was conducted together with the forces of Europol. The investigative procedure was a continuation of the operation Wasp – the investigation into the case of Gennady Petrov. Other details have not yet been disclosed.
During the searches, a large amount of cash, computer equipment, documents and firearms were confiscated. Apart from that, 23 vehicles were seized. According to the law enforcement agencies, in Spain, the suspects could have laundered about € 30 million only in recent years.
Grinberg is one of the most well-known members of the Russian diaspora in Spain. In the prestigious resort of Marbella, he has lived since 2008. Spanish media commented on the dissipated lifestyle led by the Russian businessman: noisy parties with Russian artists, nightly benders. Grinberg owns the company called Terminal Group which works in the construction industry, restaurant business and entertainment. He owns one of the most expensive restaurants in Marbella, Finca Besaya, a golf club called Dama de Noche and other facilities. Five years ago, he became the owner of the football club Marbella which was then in a state of bankruptcy. Now, the club acts in Segunda B, the third Spanish league. It is known that Grinberg has invested large sums in the modernization of the club stadium.
Apart from Grinberg, the vice-president of Marbella FC, German Pastushenko, and owner of Agua Sierra de Mijas Oleg Kuznetsov, as well as the two managers of this company – Sergey Dozhdev and Vladimir Dzreev, were detained.
Arnold Spivakovsky (also known as Arnold Tamm) was also detained. In the early 2000s, he was a public relations adviser to the Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, Pavel Borodin, worked as CEO of Kosmos hotel complex and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the hotel association Intourist. The TV channel Rain reports that Spivakovsky was the manager of AFK Sistema (owned by Vladimir Yevtushenkov). The channel refers, in particular, to the publication dated September 13, 2017 on the website of the charitable organization Russian Children's Fund signed by Arnold Spivakovsky. There, he calls himself ‘the project manager of AFK Sistema’. He is an employee of the woodworking company Sokolsky DOK (part of the Segezha Group controlled by Sistema).
Nevertheless, on September 29, the seven persons of interest accused of connections with the ‘Russian mafia’ were released from custody under a written undertaking not to leave the country. Their passports were confiscated. Pastushenko and Dzreev are among them. The others are currently in custody.