Squeaky Clean? Spanish justice and the acquittal of an alleged Mafia money launderer

Part 1

On 18 October 2018, a decade long prosecution of the Tambov mafia in Spain ended in fiasco when judges acquitted all 17 of the defendants. The verdict was particularly surprising because some of the defendants, including alleged money launderer Michael Rebo and mafioso Gennady Petrov (pictured above), had actually confessed to the crimes they were charged with, writes Stephen Komarnyckyj for EUToday.

Russia's FSB intelligence service had submitted reports to the court with evidence supposedly demonstrating the innocence of the accused. The judges had apparently believed Russian intelligence rather than the evidence amassed by the prosecution.

They disregarded a protected witness’s testimony regarding the racketeering perpetrated by the gang and reports by Spanish intelligence and police services. The evidence, including the vast sums moved in questionable bank operations, seems voluminous and compelling and it is hard to believe that it was rejected and the FSB's rather unsubstantiated claims that the men were innocent accepted. However, new evidence shows that the FSB and Putin were actually linked to the mafia gang who were acquitted in 2017 and that Michael Rebo has relaunched his business career in Germany.

The FSB had indeed been connected to mafia activity in Spain via a previous successful prosecution of a Taganskaya mafia operation. In May 2016, Aleksandr Romanov, a Taganskaya Mafia boss who lived in Mallorca, was found guilty of money laundering.

Torshin Butina

His boss Aleksandr Torshin, a Russian politician and central banker, narrowly evaded being arrested after he cancelled a planned trip to Spain for Romanov's birthday party on 21st August 2013. Torshin is arguably an FSB asset and managed Maria Butina (pictured with Torshin), the Stetson flaunting six gun toting spy who infiltrated US politics and the National Rifle Association in 2016.

His colleagues in Russian intelligence probably tipped him off about his planned arrest. He and the other 17 defendants were, like Torshin, protected by an intelligence service that often works in partnership with Russian mafia groups. The major media outlets such as the BBC, which covered the arrests of the 17 mafia suspects, have unfortunately, not examined the bizarre acquittal of all the suspects nor linked it to the earlier case. In both instances the FSB was intervening to protect mafia gangs who were closely linked both to Russian intelligence and Vladimir Putin. Indeed Petrov and his fellow defendant Vladislav Reznik were the founders of Rossiya Bank used by Putin and his entourage and which provides the account into which the Russian president's salary is paid.

Articles by Stephen Komarnyckyj:

Russian investigative journalism site The Insider has acquired thousands of taped conversations proving the links between the gang and Putin and his entourage. The Spanish court had, rather bizarrely, dismissed the tapes saying they proved nothing specific. The tapes had been submitted as proof that Petrov was seeking to influence political appointments through another defendant Russian politician Vladislav Reznik, a senior member of Putin's party.

Alarmingly, the judges believed Reznik's defence that he had simply been listening to Petrov's suggestions. Similarly, they accepted his explanations as to why he had been buying Spanish villas, a private jet and yachts through a blind trust in partnership with Petrov and his family. Reznik had simply been looking at ways to manage his assets which exceeded EUR 60m when he was arrested in 2008.

Petrov was also linked to Putin and the highest levels of the Russian state through Yury Kovalchuk, a major shareholder at Rossiya Bank and a friend of the Russian president. The tapes reveal that Petrov considered approaching Kovalchuk to secure the appointment of one of his cronies to a bank used to hold Gazprom assets.

One of Petrov's most senior contacts was Herman Gref, the CEO of Sberbank and an ex minister. In the tapes Nail Malyutin, one of Petrov's associates, reveals that Gref has invited him to Sberbank's anniversary party.

Nial Malyutin

Malyutin (pictured) was at that time the director of the Financial Leasing Company( FLC) and is now serving time for fraud, conspiracy, and the murder of his partner Andrei Burlakov in 2011. FLC was involved in embezzling public funds underwritten by Sberbank and laundering money through German shipyards. Burlakov's murder was allegedly committed by a gang controlled by one Sergey Morozov, AKA Aslan Gagiyev, who also features in the tapes.

This is only a partial account of the material in the recordings acquired by The Insider which provide evidence of how a criminal gang had links to the highest levels of the Russian state. Petrov's contacts, including Kovalchuk, and Putin aide Igor Sechin read like a who's who of Putin's cronies.

His birthday party's guest list included a defence minister and an ex PM as well as senior Mafioso and Putin associate Ilya Traber who alas couldn't make it. The tapes, when read in conjunction with the prosecution evidence, appear to show a highly organised mafia group with links to the highest levels of the Russian state parachuting its cronies into key positions in politics banking and business. They reveal ‘investments' of tens of millions of Euros funnelled from offshore firms through Spain and back to Russia. They provide evidence of racketeering and crime and the vast wealth enjoyed by the gang as a result.

Yet the Spanish court argued that the money could not absolutely be proved to be the proceeds of crime and that the gang's members were just coincidental investors. European justice has stepped through the looking glass and those who appeared guilty have been deemed innocent. This trial might be a precedent for a new era in which European courts and institutions are increasingly the facilitators rather than the foes of international crime syndicates.

To be continued...

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Steve Komarnyckyj

Steve Komarnyckyj

Steve Komarnyckyj's literary translations and poems have appeared in Index on Censorship, Modern Poetry in Translation and many other journals. He is the holder of two PEN awards and a highly regarded English language poet whose work has been described as articulating "what it means to be human" (Sean Street). He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie and three domestic cats.

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