‘Solntsevsky’ coast. Money of Russian ‘bros’ laundered in Spain through football and mineral water
Costa del Sol means ‘sunny coast’ in Spanish. But in the light of the recent events, the resort region may be called ‘Solntsevsky’ as well. Several suspects, out of the eleven, detained in the framework of a high-profile money laundering case have been arrested in Mijas, Andalusia. Is it a coincidence? No, unlikely. The CrimeRussia was sorting out the business ties of ‘Izmailovskie’ and ‘Solntstevskie’ gangs with the birthplace of Antonio Banderas.
Spanish law enforcement authorities pay special attention to the East-European organized crime. Russian criminals have traditionally been using this country as a ‘laundromat’ for legalization of criminal proceeds, while La Guardia Civil and special services of Spain were struggling against this.
‘Thief № 1’ Zakhary Kalashov, also known as ‘Shakro Molodoy’, had served a prison term in Spain for money laundering; a year later, in 2016, another famous ‘thief-in-law’ Kakhaber ‘Kakha Rustavsky’ Shushanashvili has been convicted for the same crime. Gennady Petrov, one of the leaders or ‘Tambovsko-Malyshevskie’ organized criminal group, was arrested for money laundering in Malaga province in 2009. Now the time has come for ‘Solntstevskie’ and ‘Izmailovskie’ gangs.
On September 26, it became known that the Spanish law enforcement services continue ‘rooting out’ the ‘Russian mafia’ in Malaga.
According to EFE international news agency, La Guardia Civil and Interpol European Office have carried out a large-scale operation and arrested 11 Russians, including several businessmen well-known both in Spain and Russia.
La Guardia Civil arrive to Alexander Grinberg...
The list of detainees includes Alexander Grinberg, owner of Marbella Football Club; German Pastushenko, Marbella F.C. Vice President; and vacationing in Spain Arnold Arnoldovich Spivakovsky (born Arnold Tamm), who used to be the PR Consultant of Pavel Borodin, State Secretary of the Union of Russia and Belarus, in the early 2000s and then switched to the hotel business. Spivakovsky was the First Deputy General Director of Peking Hotel and Office Complex Open Joint Stock Company and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Intourist.
...and to his club
In the course of the special operation dubbed “Oligarkh”, 18 searches have been performed in Mijas, Marbella, Estepona, and Puerto Banús. The operatives have seized large amounts of cash (the exact sum is not disclosed), plenty of valuables, electronic data storage devices, 23 luxury vehicles (Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, Ferrari, etc.), and an entire arsenal of firearms and munitions. Even the gendarmes were confused: why do the Russians suspected of money laundering need so many top notch firearms?
In addition to handguns, numerous automatic rifles, submachine guns, assault rifles (including silences ones), silencers, and night viewers have been seized.
According to the official statement issued by La Guardia Civil, operative investigation measures have been carried out in the headquarters Marbella Football Club and Dama de Noche Golf Club belonging to Alexander Grinberg and located in Marbella, in the office of Aguas Sierra de Mijas mineral water bottling plant in Mijas, and in some other facilities belonging to the detained Russians.
According to Fiscalía Especial Contra la Corrupción y la Criminalidad Organizada (Prosecutor’s Office for Special Cases Pertaining to Corruption and Organized Crime), the majority of the detained suspects are Russian citizens having Spanish permanent residence cards; they were the leaders of a sophisticated business structure created by Russian ‘Izmailovskie’ and ‘Solntstevskie’ organized criminal groups that used to be rivals in their native country but joined the efforts in money laundering in foreign countries, including Spain. The law enforcement authorities believe that the Russian organized criminal groups have legalized at least €30 million through Spanish enterprises under their control. A standard scheme was used: the Russians were purchasing profitless and pre-bankrupt companies with their debts for next to nothing and ‘laundered’ criminal proceeds siphoned from Russia through major investments.
Football club for €1
Marbella Football Club was one of the such ‘laundromats’; Russian businessman Alexander Grinberg has purchased it in 2013 for €1. The entrepreneur, who had relocated to Malaga with his family shortly before that, acquired Marbella when it was overburdened with debts and unable to pay the bills.
Marbella F.C. Secretary Claudio Hernández, President Alexander Grinberh, and Vice President German Pastushenko
Immediately upon purchasing the football club, Grinberg has paid off the debts in the amount of €250 thousand, donated a significant sum to the municipal budget to restore the city stadium where Marbella players were practicing, and held several press conferences making a very good impression on the local media. Friendliness, politeness, and democratism of Grinberg have delivered results – the Spaniards liked the ‘Russian oligarch’ who had saved the city team from complete ruination. By the way, club fans still can’t believe that Grinberg was involved into illegal activities and consider his arrest a nonsense.
The football club management style of Grinberg sharply distinguishes him from other Russian businessmen involved into the international football, including Roman Abramovich often compared with the “Russian oligarch from Marbella” by the Spanish media. First of all, instead of purchasing ‘legionaries’, he prefers to train players for the team directly in Marbella, which is appreciated by its residents. Secondly, he counts every euro and reports to the city his every step taken to upgrade the local team from Segunda División B to a higher league. Grinberg is very democratic in everyday life – he shakes hands with stadium guards while visiting training sessions and games, contacts with fans, and pays special attention to most important spectators of Marbella games – for example, to the brother of Antonio Banderas who resides on the coast and runs business projects of the famous actor in his native country. Grinberg can often be seen among regional officials as well.
Golf club of Alexander Grinberg
Marbella F.C. is not the only business project of the Russian native in Andalusia. In addition to the football club, Terminal Group incorporated in Costa del Sol and belonging to Alexander Grinberg owns a number of objects in the construction, restaurant, and entertainment spheres. His structure owns La Dama de Noche Golf Club, Finca Besaya Restaurant (one of the most expensive in Marbella), seaside Gloton Restaurant, and some other facilities located on the coast. His lifestyle is consistent with the image of a true oligarch – he often throws expensive galas for his Russian guests and had even leased Billionaire Club founded by Spanish millionaire Flavio Briatore to celebrate his birthday; Bi-2 Russian rock band had entertained the guests.
“Great game! Marbella–Cádiz 1:1. Thanks to Alexander Grinberg!” Source: Instagram Account of Egor Bortnik (@levab2)
Spanish media outlets call Grinberg a “multimillionaire” or “billionaire” and mention him in relation to the Forbes list. However, this is incorrect.
Partner of Malevsky and Renato Usatîi
Grinberg is known in Russia much less than in Spain. It is impossible to estimate his wealth of find his name on the Forbes list. According to the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities, in Russia, Alexander Ruslanovich Grinberg is the founder of 5 and head of 3 companies specializing mostly in property management; he is also the founder and President of Territoriya Sovesti (Territory of Conscience) Charitable Fund. In his interview to Championat.ru, Grinberg speaks vaguely about the origin of funds invested into Marbella; according to him, the investors are “a group of Russian and Spanish citizens who actively support the club”.
However, the Spanish law enforcement authorities believe that the owner of Marbella F.C. represents business interests of the two most famous in the 1990s Russian criminal groups – ‘Izmailovskie’ and ‘Solntstevskie’ – on the Spanish coast.
The Spanish prosecution does not disclose its sources of information; it notes though that the Russian law enforcement structures are not involved into the large-scale inquest into operations of the ‘Russian mafia’. But as recently as in 2012, Alexander Grinberg and Pavel Aleshin, his partner in the foundation of Territoriya Sovesti Charitable Fund, were running a joint business with Andrei Malevsky, brother of Anton Malevsky, leader of ‘Izmailovskie’ organized criminal group. They were cofounders of Terminal-Odintsovo Limited Liability Company specializing in commercial space leasing.
‘Izmailovskie’ organized criminal group has grown from Moscow youth gangs historically opposing ‘Lyuberetskie’. According to various estimations, 200 to 500 people were its members. Similarly with many other such gangs, initially members of ‘Izmailovskie’ were practicing thefts, robberies, and protection racketeering of small businesses. Later, former special service officers have joined the gang and its started establishing private security companies, thus, legalizing its operations. The ‘dirty’ money were mostly invested into foreign real estate. ‘Izmailovskie’ gang has also established a number of jewelry enterprises. According to some information, the organized criminal group was actively involved into the ‘aluminum wars’ and searches for channels to acquire radioactive substances with the purpose to export those abroad. For a certain period, ‘Izmailovskie’ had shared control over ‘Gorbushkinsky’ market with ‘Solntstevskie’ organized criminal group. However, Anton Malevsky, the leader of ‘Izmailovskie’, was allegedly thrown from an airplane in Africa without a parachute – as if it was an accident – following an order from ‘Mikhas’.
All these events are ‘ancient history’ now – but the current Marbella owner supports not only Spanish, but also Moldavian football – although, being a native of Moscow, Grinberg never had any relation to Moldova.
Two years ago, Renato Usatîi, Mayor of Bălți and leader of opposition Moldavian Nasha Partia (Our Party), has introduced Alexander Grinberg as the general investor of Zaria Bălți F.C. to the residents and players. According to a CrimeRussia source, Moldavian politician Usatîi – put on the Interpol wanted list in Moldavia on the counts of swindling with Universal Bank shares and masterminding an assassination attempt against Russian banker German Gorbuntsov in London – is a project of ‘Solntstevskie’ organized criminal group that has spectacularly failed. In 2015, Usatîi said that to that moment, Grinberg had already invested at least €1 million into Zaria and intended to invest several million euros into the Moldavian football club on the annual basis.
Marbella F.C. Vice President German Pastushenko detained together with Grinberg is as prominent figure as his boss. Pastushenko had arrived to Costa del Sol in 2001 – much earlier than the other Russian natives arrested in Malaga. In 2005, he was the only Russian among the suspects charged as a result of a major anti-money laundering operation dubbed “Ballena Blanca” (White Whale) carried out by La Guardia Civil. In addition to Pastushenko, the Spanish gendarmes have arrested some 60 people at that time, including natives of Germany, Ukraine, Finland, France, Great Britain, Canada, and Israel.
German Pastushenko with one of the members of the Council
German Pastushenko was running business attracting funds of his friends from Russia and later – from the U.S. and Germany. He was buying unfinished construction projects, completing those, and selling at much higher prices (according to the Spanish prosecution, Gennady Petrov, one of the leaders or ‘Tambovsko-Malyshevskie’ organized criminal group detained later in the course of Operation Troyka, had used a similar scheme). Over time the “White Whale case” has collapsed due to lack of evidence, and the suspects were released on bail one by one – however, Pastushenko was released among of the last. He returned to the business and several years later became a partner of Grinberg in Marbella.
‘Arnosha’, adjutant of ‘Mikhas’
However, according to the media publications and report of the Spanish prosecution, Grinberg and Pastushenko were not the main targets of “Operation Oligarkh”. The local press writes that Arnold Spivakovsky, who had arrived to the resort for only one week and was spending time in luxury surrounded by beautiful ladies, is the true ‘big fish’. In its official release, La Guardia Civil names Spivakovsky one of the leaders of ‘Solntstevskie’ organized criminal group.
Arnold Arnoldovich Spivakovsky-Tamm is an experienced hotel top manager who currently has no issues with the law. But in the past, Tamm (known in the criminal circles as ‘Arnosha’) was repeatedly named one of the leaders of ‘Solntstevskie’ gang and ‘right hand’ of its leader Mikhailov. Some operative materials characterize Tamm as the “adjutant of ‘Mikhas’”. For instance, the Swiss lawyer of ‘Mikhas’ has later admitted that in 1996, he had delivered letters from detained Mikhailov to Tamm and Viktor ‘Avera Starshy’ (Avera Senior) Averin – another boss of ‘Solntstevskie’.
In 1993, 26-year-old Tamm was named an active member of ‘Solntstevskie’ gang by the team investigating the murder of Valery Vlasov, Director of Valery Casino, committed on August 4, 1993. Together with Mikhailov and Averin, Tamm was arrested on suspicion of complicity in that crime. A year later, together with ‘thief-in-law’ Sergei ‘Sibiryak’ (Siberian) Lipchansky, he has bribed prison guards and gained entry into Pretrial Detention Facility № 2 to attend a ‘congregation’. All of them were busted by operatives of the Regional Administration for Combating Organized Crime, Department for Penitentiary Cases of the General Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Federal Counterintelligence Service of the Russian Federation, and MIA Investigations Department.
‘Solntstevskie’ and business. Standing from left to right: Vladimir ‘Shef’ (Chief) Gurchenkov, Arnold ‘Arnosha’ Tamm, Aleksander ‘Avera Mladshy’ (Avera Junior) Averin, Lev Kvetnoy. Sitting from left to right: Viktor ‘Avera Starshy’ (Avera Senior) Averin, Sergei Mikhailov, Andrei Skoch
Somehow, all these encounters with the law enforcement authorities hadn’t resulted in any trouble for Tamm-Spivakovsky. He was on the dock only once – but neither for the crimes committed by ‘Solntstevskie’ nor for the membership in the gang. In 2002, Spivakovsky, then-Deputy General Director of Peking Hotel and Office Complex, was charged with illegal storage of narcotic drugs on an especially large scale. His defense attorneys had claimed that the case was framed-up, while the media wrote about an unprecedented pressure on the investigation team. Advocates for Spivakovsky included a Deputy Prosecutor of the Moscow Region, Head of a MIA Investigation Department, Deputy Head of the MIA General Administration for the Moscow Region, and virtually the entire supreme command of the Department of Internal Affairs for the Town of Lobnya. A grenade thrown into the car of investigator Nenakhova, who had handled the case, was the culmination of that story. Fortunately, no one was injured at that time. In September 2002, the Odintsovo Court has sentenced Tamm-Spivakovsky to 3 years and 3 months behind bars conditionally and later completely acquitted him.
‘Solntstevskie’ organized criminal group has emerged in Russia in the late 1980s – early 1990s. It has brought to knees smaller criminal groups – ‘Yasenevskie’, ‘Chertanovskie’, and ‘Cheremushkinskie’. Starting from ‘covering up’ shell game artists, smuggling, drug dealing, weapon trafficking, car sales, extortion, prostitution, kidnappings, and contract killings, by the 2000s, ‘Solntstevskie’ began investing criminal proceeds into legal projects – restaurants, hotels, financial operations, etc. The gang had a share in the oil industry as well. By the mid-1990s, over 120 banks and companies had officially belonged to gang members. Money earned in Russia were siphoned abroad to purchase inter alia real estate in the U.S., Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Cyprus. Gang members had owned some British, Hungarian, and Israeli companies. In 1996, Sergei ‘Mikhas’ Mikhailov, one of the gang leaders, was arrested in Switzerland for creation of a criminal group but has later been acquitted by jurors for failure of evidence.
In the light of the recent arrests in Malaga, the Spanish prosecution also considers Spivakovsky a member of ‘Solntstevskie’ gang having close ties with ‘criminal authority’ Semen Mogilevich wanted by the FBI since 2009 in relation to a $150-million swindling.
Costa del Sol attracts Russian criminals of all kinds and from all Russian regions. In 2010, ‘thief-in-law’ ‘Shakro Molodoy’ was arrested in Marbella; the luxury villa of Gennady Petrov, one of the leaders or ‘Tambovsko-Malyshevskie’ organized criminal group, is also located there – the authorities intend to transform it into a social facility. In August 2017, Vyacheslav ‘Slava Kemerovsky’ Gulevich, leader of ‘Kemerovskie’ organized criminal group charged in Estonia with international drug trafficking, has been arrested in nearby Mijas.
Gennady Petrov’s villa in Marbella
In the context of recent “Operation Oligarkh”, La Guardia Civil names Aguas Sierra de Mijas bottling plant located in Mijas another important ‘laundromat’ of the ‘Russian mafia’. The police have arrested its main shareholder Oleg Kuznetsov and two top managers – Sergei Dozhdev and Vladimir Dzreev.
According to La Guardia Civil, the company has been acquired by the Russians in the period of financial difficulties. It was an ideal investment project for the Russian criminal groups.
No information is available about the past of main shareholder Oleg Kuznetsov. Little is known about Dzreev – according to his Facebook page, he has relocated to Spain from the Krasnodar krai and was employed with Google for some time. However, Director Sergei Dozhdev is well-known to the law enforcement authorities of the Volgograd region. Dozhdev is the founder of several companies in Volgograd – Elit, Metallkom, Tekhas (Texas), Volgograd TVM, Al Lit Pro, etc. He was suspected of committing illegal actions; however, having good connections in the enforcement structures, Dozhdev managed to get off the hook every time.
Dozhdev is believed to be a close friend of late ‘criminal authority’ Vladimir Kadin, ex-Vice President of the Regional Boxing Federation and ‘overseer’ of Volgograd. Kadin was killed in 2011. According to Bloknot-Volgograd.ru, Kadin and Dozhdev had launched together the mineral water bottling plant in Spain on the basis of acquired Aguas Sierra de Mijas assets. It is highly likely, therefore, that the Spanish mineral water was used to ‘launder’ the pooled cash fund of Volgograd ‘thieves’.