Georgian mafia's ‘mail’ hacked in Spain
For many years, European law enforcement structures have been struggling against so-called ‘Russian mafia’ and ‘thieves-in-law’. In fact, this mostly refers to natives of Georgia and other Caucasian and Trans-Caucasian regions, while all the leaders of criminal groups are dubbed ‘thieves’ in Europe. The thing is that criminals from former Soviet republics are actively running their operations in the E.U. – especially in Spain, France, Greece, Germany, and Italy.
Another step in this struggle was the recent arrest of 23 members of a gang led by thief-in-law Kakhaber Shushanashvili (Kakha Rustavsky) in different parts of Spain. Shushanashvili currently serves a term in a Spanish prison – in March 2016, Spanish National Court had sentenced him to 20 years and 11 months behind bars for a number of offences. In spring 2017, the Supreme Court of Spain has examined his appeal and reduced the prison term to 15 years and 3 months.
Kakha Rustavsky is believed to be the ‘godfather’ of ‘Georgian mafia’ not only in Spain, but throughout Europe. His organized criminal group specializes in the laundering of proceeds of various crimes, including thefts, drugs and weapons trafficking, and even contract killings.
Letters, parcels, stolen goods
In the course of a special operation dubbed “Naples” and carried out in November 2017, the Spanish policemen have visited inter alia a company specializing in shipping mail parcels from Spain to Georgia. The operatives believe that the misspelled sign “Stn expres (instead of “express”) georgia paqueteria” had disguised one of Shushanashvili’s ‘laundromats’. Officially, the company had indeed mailed small parcels, but concurrently it was used to smuggle stolen goods to Georgia, including watches, jewelry, and electronic devices.
But most importantly, this ‘mail’ business had covered up transfers of dirty money obtained by the mafia; it had accompanied the crowned thief during the entire period of his residence in Spain.
45-year-old Kakhaber Shushanashvili was born in Rustavi, Georgia. In the early 1990s, he was sentenced for the first time to a three-year prison term for malicious hooliganism. In 2001, he was crowned. His older brother Lasha Shushanashvili (Lasha Rustavsky) is a thief-in-law as well. In the early 2000s, the both brothers have relocated to Europe and took control over Russian-speaking criminal groups operating there.
Shushanashvili junior arrived to Spain in 2008 with a Bulgarian passport in the name of Nicolai Kostov. Later police operatives have seized from him a Georgian passport in the name of Tamil Baramidze, a copy of a Lithuanian passport in the name of Anatoly Muchanov, and a copy of a driver’s license in the same name. Local resident Juan Miquela Tomillero became a thief’s guide in this new world; he worked as his driver and acted as an agent in all financial deals and other transactions involving governmental institutions. The name of Juan Miquela Tomillero was used to contract loans, register companies, and make major purchases requiring official documents, including vehicles (in total, some 40 cars) and apartments.
In addition, he had assisted Shushanashvili to contract a fictitious marriage with Barcelona resident Caparros Maria Jose Alonso in October 2010, thus, enabling the crowned thief to legalize himself in Europe. Later the investigation has found out that the woman had received €6 thousand for this service. It was noted that Shushanashvili had seen her only a few times in his entire life.
The real family life of Shushanashvili was linked with a totally different woman: he had lived in the central part of Barcelona with 32-year-old Ukrainian native Kateryna Myerkova. In 2009, she gave birth to twins. In the course of the last police operation, she has been detained as well.
Juan Miquela Tomillero was the official owner of such companies as Cabanda Advance, Viser World, Nixing Trade, and Lurtalia specializing in various spheres of business – from car washes to real estate sales and stock market investments.
Later the law enforcement authorities noted that the mobsters hadn’t bothered to create an illusion that the companies were operating in accordance with their profile. The story of Lurtalia was the most illustrative. The company had officially specialized in production of electronic components for engines. But in fact, it was shipping the above-mentioned parcels to Georgia. In several years, the company had repeatedly changed its legal address and name. It is now impossible to find a company with the name “Stn expres georgia paqueteria” in any directory. Neither does it have a web site – only two Facebook pages providing an address in Barcelona updated on a regular basis and the phone number of its office in Madrid.
Facebook page of Stn Expres Georgia
The Spanish press reported that the chief treasurer of the gang was arrested in one of such ‘post offices’ during the most recent raid. Some outlets had claimed that Kateryna Myerkova was in charge of the European thieves’ pooled cash fund for the duration of her husband’s prison term. This is not true: Myerkova had received financial aid in the amount of €6 thousand per month from that fund “to make ends meet”. The speculations about her involvement with the thieves’ pooled cash fund were likely caused by the fact that she used to own 50% of Lurtalia shares.
In fact, Myerkova was a true comrade-in-arms for the thief-in-law, and this was not her first arrest. In 2010, she was detained together with Kakha in the course of another large-scale Europe-wide operation dubbed “Java”. It was carried out in Spain, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland and resulted in arrests of more than 80 people. At that time, she was charged with complicity in crimes committed by her husband. In turn, she had claimed that the father of her children was a totally different person – some Giorgi Nadiradze. Ultimately, the woman was released on bail in the amount of €20 thousand, while Kakha Rustavsky had faced a severe prison term.
Overseer of Europe
According to the case file, the Spanish law enforcement authorities had watched Shushanashvili since 2005. At that time, he was referred to in operational reports as “the leader of an organized criminal group acting in the interests of his older brother residing in Greece”. The influence of the two brothers has grown after the arrest of the main overseer of Europe – Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy) – in 2006.
All this time, the law enforcement structures were collecting data on the gang structure, its financial flows, replenishments of its pooled cash fund, and usage of these funds. It was found out inter alia that the mafia’s mail service was used as a bank shipping cash in parcels. According to the Spanish special services, the monies were shipped to Georgia and Russia and then delivered to Kalashov.
Kakhaber Shushanashvili (Kakha Rustavsky)
It was also found out that the gang members were using false IDs with different names and nationalities and never registered vehicles in their own names. Overall, they tried to avoid unnecessary attention and acted very cautiously. The mafia had provided residence permits to the newly arrived gang members by signing labor contracts with them via its dummy companies.
For a long time, the law enforcement authorities had turned a blind eye to these operations – but after the first murders, Shushanashvili has finally been arrested. In March 2010, thief-in-law Vladimir Dzhanashia (Lado) was killed in Marseille, France. He was admitted to a Marseille hospital with seven gunshot wounds and succumbed to his injuries despite the medical aid.
Home in Barcelona where Shushanashvili and Myerkova were living (106 Carrer de la Marina)
The Spanish investigators have concluded that Shushanashvili was the mastermind behind this murder. The assassins have succeeded only at the third attempt. Initially, the crowned thief’s henchmen had arrived to Nice to dispatch Lado. However, the Spanish police had warned the French authorities, and the killers were arrested. A month later, an assassin had broken into Dzhanashia’s cottage and opened fire with a submachine gun – but Lado managed to escape to the second floor and leaped through a window. After such a close call, Dzhanashia has relocated to a Marseille suburb and rented a home under an assumed identity. He had hardly left his shelter, but despite all the safety measures, the assassin managed to track him down and kill.
At that time, the police had intended to detain Lasha Shushanashvili as well, but he has absconded. Only in January 2012, he was arrested in Greece with a fake passport by a European warrant issued by Spain. Madrid had accused Shushanashvili of leading a criminal group, money laundering, and an assassination attempt committed in 2009 – however, Lasha was not extradited to Spain. He was sentenced in Greece to 14 years behind bars – and served the term in a comfortable apartment located on the prison grounds, with a personal chef and unlimited communication with the outside world. In summer 2015, Lasha Rustavsky was reportedly seen in Moscow.
Lasha Shushanashvili (Lasha Rustavsky)
Lado was considered an associate of authoritative Georgian thief-in-law Merab Dzhangveladze (Merab Sukhumsky) who, in turn, is a close associate of another influential thief Tariel Oniani (Taro). The Rustavi clan led by brothers Shushanashvili has old scores with them. By the way, Dzhangveladze was also marked for death – but he turned out to be more lucky than Lado.
After the conviction of Shakro Molodoy in Spain, Ded Khasan, patriarch of the criminal world, has appointed Lasha Rustavsky to manage his business empire in Europe. This was unacceptable for Oniani who has been living in Spain for a long time. The conflict has escalated into a long war between the criminal clans led by Ded Khasan and Taro. Brothers Shushanashvili were in charge of the Ded Khasan’s ‘battle unit’. In 2008, Ded Khasan, Lasha Rustavsky, and Vyacheslav Ivan’kov (Yaponchik) have held a large thieves’ congregation in Crystal Casino in Moscow and challenged the thievish status of Oniani and his associates.
In October 2009, an assassination attempt has been committed against Yaponchik who later succumbed to his wounds in a hospital. Members of the clan led by Ded Khasan accused Taro of this murder and concluded that it was arranged by his close associate Merab Sukhumsky with the support of Lado.
Virtuosi of their art
The arrest of Shushanashvili hasn’t really affected the operations of ‘Georgian mafia’ in Spain. His close associate Zviad Darsadze has taken the ball. The 44-year-old crowned thief from Kutaisi had officially worked in Spain as a general laborer in a company selling fruits and vegetables for €300 per month. Concurrently, he was driving luxury cars and often threw posh parties in local restaurants.
Furthermore, under his rule, the criminal situation has escalated to a new level, and even foreign (i.e. non-Spanish) media began sounding the alarms. According to Deutsche Welle, Georgian thieves committed up to 60% of all home burglaries in Madrid. The gang had also operated in Valencia, Basque Country, and Murcia region. Their ‘work’ was precisely tuned and smoothly running. The Spanish Ministry of Internal Affairs noted that Georgian burglars had stayed in Spain for the duration of their tourist visas – 3 months – and then were replaced by another ‘shift’ of housebreakers. The captured thieves were normally released prior to the trial – that could be held a year after the arrest at the earliest. The released thugs continued committing thefts for some time and then disappeared. It is necessary to note though that successful captures were a pretty rare thing – Georgian thieves are considered virtuosi of their ‘art’; they leave no traces and always act swiftly.
In 2015, Darsadze has finally been arrested in the course of Operation Aikon together with other 35 members of the Georgian organized criminal group. Jewelry, €100 thousand in cash, a pistol, and housebreaking tools have been seized from them. In the same year, the Supreme Court of Spain has sentenced Darsadze to 7 years behind bars.
In the meantime, the investigation against Shushanashvili had progressed pretty slowly until the emergence of new corpses. This time, the victims were not enemies of the crowned thief, but members of his gang. On February 4, 2016, two people were killed in a home in Terrassa; one of them was 47-year-old Gela Garishvili (according to other sources, Darishvili). He used to be a bodyguard of Kakha Rustavsky and participated in the first assassination attempt against Lado. Similarly with many other gang members, he was arrested in 2010 in the framework of Operation Java and later released pending the trial.
In Spring 2016, Shushanashvili has been convicted for an attempted murder, money laundering, forging documents, illegal possession of weapons, forging bank cards, and repeated attempted swindling.
Arrest of Shushanashvili’s mobsters in Spain in November 2017
The law enforcement authorities officially announced that a connection between the organized crime and money laundering cases on one hand and the murders on the other hand has been finally identified. But most probably, the special services have just decided not to wait until the thief-in-law gets rid of all the unwanted witnesses.
In addition to sentencing the boss of ‘Georgian mafia’ to a large prison term, the law enforcement structures have arrested some 80 gang members since 2010. Assets worth €24 million have been seized, including a trade center, hotel, 30 homes, garages, and commercial premises located mostly in Catalonia.
Escaped from under the nose
However, the organized criminal group of Shushanashvili was by no means ‘decapitated’. Thief-in-law Spartak Dzhaparidze (Spartak) has taken up the torch from Darsadze.
Last time he was spotted by the operatives in May 2016 – during another special operation dubbed “Aikon II” – and brazenly escaped. The police have uncovered a mafia’s base in a Madrid neighborhood and intended to bust it – but as of a sudden, a thin man in glasses went out of the door. Although he went out of the very same door they were about to storm in, the operatives could not believe that this was the wanted suspect. Just in case, a police officer asked the man to show his ID. The person has presented an Israeli passport in the name of Vladimir Shteynberg – and the policeman had to let him go. The officer still had doubts and requested a photo of the suspect. Shortly after the vanishing of the gray man in the crowd, a confirmation has been received – it was Spartak Dzhaparidze.
As of November 2017, there were no announcements of his arrest – so, apparently, Dzhaparidze remains on the loose and continues ruling the gang.
Copy of the fake passport of Dzhaparidze
The Spanish anti-mafia legislation is pretty harsh, but the question is: would the arrest of the current gang leader change the overall situation in any way? No, unlikely. Another crowned thief would come instead of him – there are plenty of thieves-in-law among the Georgians.
Spain is one of the many European countries desperately struggling against gangs controlled by Russian thieves-in-law without much result. Generations of professional criminals alternate – but the situation remains the same. Kalashov, Oniani, once-prominent member of Malyshevskie and Tambovskie gangs Gennady Petrov, and, of course, Aleksander Malyshev – all of them were tried in Spanish courts. Kalashov once said: “I like Spain because it resembles Georgia by its nature”. It seems that by its own, Spain can never overcome this hydra growing endless new heads.
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