€750.000 apiece. Solntsevskaya-Izmaylovskaya’s case collapses in Spain
Last autumn, the Spanish Civil Guard reported on the liquidation of a whole network of money 'laundries' in the south of the country. However, the high-profile case became a laughing stock. The CrimeRussia figures out why all the suspects, whom the court first arrested without the right to pledge, are already at large, and the Spanish mass media almost forget about the Oligarch operation.
At a time when a large-scale lawsuit over money laundering case against Tambovskaya-Malyshevskaya gang was gaining momentum in Madrid, the south of Spain showed the opposite dynamics at another landmark case of the Russian mafia, within which 11 Russian citizens were detained September 26, 2017. Four of them, president and owner of Marbella FC Alexander Grinberg, Agua de Mijas drinking water plant main shareholder Oleg Kuznetsov, one of the executives of the same enterprise Sergei Dozhdev and top manager of the Russian AFK Sistema Arnold Spivakovsky were arrested by the Marbella city court for the duration of the investigation without the right to be released on bail.
On February 8, the last of them, owner of the Marbella football club Alexander Grinberg, left the prison in Alhaurín de la Torre. Thus, the Malaga province court heeded the arguments of Grinberg's defense and decided to release the businessman after four and a half months of detention. €750.000-worth bail for the businessman was contributed by his family and lawyers.
The press conference of Grinberg with the participation of Marbella marketing director and translator Yulia Sadovskaya and lawyer Roman Bazoev
On February 15, Alexander Grinberg held a press conference during which he thanked his family, Marbella football players and residents of the city, noting the merit of lawyers Roman Bazoev and Sergio García Serrato in his release.
Alexander Grinberg with his lawyers
Alexander Grinberg is a Russian businessman, the son of famous Russian economist and RAS Corresponding Member Ruslan Grinberg, founder and president of the Territory of Conscience Charitable Foundation. The volume of his fortune is unknown. According to the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, Grinberg is a co-founder of 14 companies in Russia. In 2011, he and his family moved to Spain, where, according to his own words, he transferred his business. In 2013, Alexander Grinberg bought the Marbella football club for a symbolic fee of 1 euro, paying its debts of €250.000. In September 2017, he was detained during the Oligarch operation along with 10 other Russians on suspicion of laundering €30 million.
He did violate neither Russian, nor Spanish law, Grinberg said that "he will stand up for his honest name till the last." Due to the active involvement of Spanish and Russian media at the behest of the Marbella owner, the Oligarch operation was recalled.
Splendors and Miseries of Oligarch operation
The Spanish Civil Guard and the Prosecutor’s Office for Special Cases Pertaining to Corruption and Organized Crime reported pompous operations traditionally. Press releases and official videos were sent to dozens of editions and are published on the website of the Civil Guard. However, covering the Oligarch operation, the Spanish Civil Guard officers have surpassed themselves. Images of luxury homes, cars and a whole store of various small arms, which, according to the official release of the Civil Guard, were seized from suspects during the operation, spread everywhere.
Operative and investigative measures were held in the settlements of Mijas, Marbella, Estepona and Puerto Banús. The searches were conducted at the headquarters of the Marbella football club and the golf club Dama de Noche, owned by Alexander Grinberg, the office of mineral water producer Aguas de Mijas in Mijas and in a number of other facilities along the entire coast kept by the detained Russians.
More than 100 Spanish policemen participated in the operation, a helicopter was used to coordinate disparate groups in different localities (searches were conducted simultaneously).
Oligarch operation on September 26, 2017
According to the Russian-speaking residents of Marbella, the searches were conducted without any restrictions - at the villa of one of the businessmen the upholstery of the sofas was ripped up, and policemen seized unlocked computers in violation of the Spanish law. In the first wave of detentions, according to Alexander Grinberg, even hired employees who had no direct relationship to doing business, for example, the assistant to the president of Marbella, who single-handedly brought up two young children, were detained. Three days after her detention, as well as the detention of vice-president of Marbella and the partner of Grinberg Herman Pastushenko and manager of Aguas de Mijas Vladimir Dzreev were released, but the police confiscated passports and forbade to leave Spain for the duration of the investigation. As a result, four of them reached the prison in Alhaurín de la Torre.
According to the Spanish law-enforcers, the arrested persons, who are citizens of the Russian Federation and reside in Spain with residence permits, headed a complex 'laundering' structure, which the Russian Izmailovskaya and Solntsevskaya gang deployed in the country. The Spanish Prosecutor's Office noted that the investigation of their activities took about 4 years. It was said in the official release of the Civil Guard, Solntsevskaya and Izmailovskaya found common business interests in Spain, legalizing at least 30 million euros through the enterprises under their control.
Modus operandi, according to the Spanish law enforcement officers, was as follows. Russian businessmen bought up ruined or bankrupt businesses on the Costa del Sol for a pittance and transferred tens of millions of euros belonging to the Russian gang through the Spanish bank accounts opened to them. Alexander Grinberg and Oleg Kuznetsov, who controlled the main assets under suspicion, acted as a stalking-horse, and Arnold Spivakovsky (Tamm), with whose arrest the Civil Guard was proud, supervised the 'laundering' scheme of Solntsevskaya. Unlike the rest of the arrested, Spivakovsky lives permanently in Russia.
The media 'savored' the trophies of Spanish law enforcement officers, telling about the arrest of 23 luxury exclusive cars, among which were Ferrari Spider, Porsche Panamera several Bentley and BMW Z4 worth up to €300 thousand each. During the investigation, 67 mansions on the southern coast of Spain were arrested and more than 100 bank accounts of suspects were frozen. In addition, it was reported on the arrest of four yachts and 250 thousand euros in cash, as well as a large number of jewelry seized during searches.
The arrest of Alexander Grinberg and Oleg Kuznetsov yachts at the pier in Puerto Banus
Even the gendarmes were confused: why do the Russians suspected of money laundering need so many top notch firearms? They were found in the house of businessman Roman Prokopenkov, although some Spanish media wrote about the seizure of weapons in the villa of Alexander Grinberg. And although it was already known on September 27 that the weapons appearing in the video of the Civil Guard are just replicas for playing airsoft and paintball, the news about the "arsenal of Solntsevskaya and Izmaylovskaya in Spain" was relayed by the world press for another week. A toy weapon did not even get withdrawn, because it was bought with the registration of all necessary permits. However, there was no refutation from the Civil Guard.
Andrey Prokopenkov in his weapons room
As wife of Alexander Grinberg Julia told MK, information about the wealth of her family was also greatly exaggerated. According to her, "at the site of the golf club Dama de Noche, policemen found a wasteland with a building wagon, the house in Marbella was bought for a mortgage for ten years, and the car that the family drives since 2005 was taken from Russia." Whether the ascetic life of the Grinberg family corresponds to reality, the Spanish investigation will assess, as the investigation of the case continues. However, in this case it is not clear how Grinberg got 750 thousand euros for the bail, the yachts, as well as what means they used to open and purchase by a number of Spanish companies, most of which, according to Spanish media, are working at a loss. Russian business projects of Grinberg, according to the USRLE, were not successful too- for example, one of the most successful Terminal Group, which equally belongs to Grinberg and his partner Pavel Aleshin, reported a net profit of 2.6 million rubles ($45.700) for 2016.
Nevertheless, such defensive tactics fell into place, as the Russian-speaking residents of Marbella and neighboring towns, affected by the police, began to speak outrageously about the "Russophobia of the authorities, which equated the origin from the former Soviet republics and the Russian mafia."
The lawyer of several Russian families of Marbella Jose Francisco Ruiz, the stuffing in the media of obviously untrue information accompanied by shots of sham weapons was made with the aim of exaggerating the results of their work by the police leadership.
“The operation against the alleged Russian mafia has crossed all permissible limits. The investigation of the Civil Guard raises serious doubts, and they must be clarified by the competent authorities," said Jose Francisco Ruiz.
The incident with the toy arsenal and outrage over the demonization of the Spanish authorities by immigrants from the CIS do the Spanish policemen bad service. But lawyers of the arrested Russians took advantage of it.
It is noteworthy that the first of four prisoners released from the prison in Malaga was Solntsevskaya shot caller Arnold Arnoldovich Spivakovsky, the one who is called "one of the most influential Russian mafiosi ever caught in Spain, close to the wanted FBI Semen Mogilevich."
Arnold Arnoldovich Spivakovsky
Moreover, according to the Spanish media, the active phase of the operation Oligarch was planned for his arrival in Spain.
Arnold Arnoldovich Spivakovsky (formerly Tamm) was a ‘criminal authority that belonged to the leadership of Solntsevskaya gang, occupying a place in its hierarchy right after the brothers Averin, Sergey Mikhailov and Semyon Mogilevich, according to the Interpol version and operational information of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs of the 1990s. Since the mid-90s, Spivakovsky has become a legal businessman and senior employee of several companies. He held the posts of deputy director of the customs terminal Irbis, public relations adviser to Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus Pavel Borodin, deputy general director of the Pekin Hotel, chairman of the GC Kosmos OJSC board of directors, headed of the Intourist board of directors. At the time of his detention in Spain, he was a senior officer of the AFK Sistema division - Segezha Group. Arnold Spivakovsky was never tried, although he had been repeatedly detained along with other Solntsevskaya gang ‘authorities’, as well as on the high-profile case of cocaine trafficking in the Moscow club Dolls. In the circles of the Moscow operatives there was a version about Spivakovsky's involvement in the murder of Pekin Hotel director Konstantin Georgiev (Kostya Osetin).
As reported by El Espanol, Russian citizen Arnold Spivakovsky (Tamm) was released on €750.000-worth bail by Malaga court on January 25. During the judicial investigation, he is forbidden to leave Spain. In addition, twice a month the suspect should appear before law enforcement officers and give evidence in court.
Earlier defense of Arnold Spivakovsky, headed by lawyer Carlos Domínguez, protested the court's decision, calling charges against Spivakovsky unproven. The lawyers described their client as "a highly respected and repeatedly awarded by the Russian government top manager."
Arnold Spivakovsky together with Dozhdev and Kuznetsov (operational shooting) during a visit to Spain in 2016
According to Spivakovsky's lawyers, all the charges against him were absurd. Thus, the court decision on the arrest referred to the laundering of criminal funds by Spivakovsky in cooperation with another detained Russian Oleg Kuznetsov, but no examples, or a description of the ‘laundering’ scheme that the suspects could use were given. Spivakovsky acknowledged his friendship with Oleg Kuznetsov in court, but the very fact that such relations exist did not constitute a crime, lawyers said.
Arnold Spivakovsky together with Dozhdev
€750.000 for freedom
Following Spivakovsky, owner of Aguas de Mijas Oleg Kuznetsov was released on bail for the same amount. According to his lawyer Francisco Carvajal, despite the fact that the court did not doubt the validity of the charges against him, the measure of restraint in the form of arrest was disproportionate. Kuznetsov is also deprived of the right to travel abroad for the duration of the investigation and is obliged to contact law enforcement officers as frequent as Spivakovsky.
The release of Sergei Dozhdev is at stake. However, according to Lavanguardia, a pledge was not paid. After the release of Arnold Spivakovsky and Oleg Kuznetsov, Cadena Ser wrote on January 24, 2018 that two more detainees remained behind bars. However, when the owner of the Marbella FC was released on February 8, Malaga Hoy and several other Spanish editions reported that Alexander Grinberg "was the last of the four prisoners who left the prison in Alhaurín de la Torre."
Alexander Grinberg, whose lawyers submitted a 700-page report on the business activities of their client in Russia and Spain together with the appeal, is confident. According to him, they were "the only Russians detained during operation". He will not sell his football club, which currently occupies the second place in Segunda División B. Liberation on bail is considered a significant victory for lawyers, but this success is "borderline."
Alexander Grinberg lost 22 kg in a Spanish prison playing football
However, the release on bail leads to a complete avoidance of responsibility, as it was with Gennady Petrov. Accused within the Tambovskaya-Malyshevskaya case, he was released on bail of 600 thousand euros in 2010, and two years later he left for Russia "for a while" and did not return.
In addition, according to lawyers of Kuznetsov and Grinberg, the investigation has no direct evidence of money laundering, otherwise they would appear in the charges brought against them. Suspicions of the Spanish justice are based only on the business ties of the past. In the Grinberg's case, this is brother and widow of the leader of Izmaylovskaya Andrey and Zhanna Malevskies and disgraced Moldovan politician Renato Usatii, in the case of Sergei Dozhdev there is Volgograd's underboss Vladimir Kadin, who was killed in 2011. And this means that the final collapse of Solntsevskaya-Izmailovskaya case in Malaga is a matter of time.
Six months ago, no one could predict the state of the MIA General Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region by the time of the forthcoming elections. After the appointment of Moscow general Roman Plugin in charge of it, the St. Petersburg police has undergone significant changes. Major general of justice Oleg Antropov, Head of the Main Investigations Directorate, is ‘the last man standing’ from the old command of the MIA General Administration. Most probably, he is going to become the next victim of ‘janitor’ Plugin.