Spanish National Police working with Europol have seized 75 properties worth over EUR 25 million in a money-laundering bust that has been hailed as a blow against Russian corruption in Europe.
The investigation in Spain was carried out under the coordination of the Madrid based Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Corruption and Organised Crime, and the Central Court of Instruction No.2 of the National High Court.
The footage shows a plush mansion with a swimming pool that was seized by the Spanish authorities in Tenerife as part of their investigation into the laundering of funds believed to have been stolen from an American investment fund to enrich corrupt Russian officials.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Spanish National Police on Wednesday, 14th December, saying it was the first operation in Spain linked to the “so-called Magnitsky case” and that it is tied to money-laundering operations by Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Sergei Magnitsky was a Ukrainian-born Russian tax advisor who exposed corruption by Russian government officials. He died in 2009 after spending 11 months in Russian police custody.
Magnitsky was the representative in Russia of the American company Hermitage Capital Management, which was at the time the largest Western investment fund in the country, founded by the American Bill Browder, a magnate who at first supported Putin until their relationship soured.
Browder denounced corruption among senior Russian officials, with Magnitski uncovering that as of 2005, some USD 230 million had been diverted from Hermitage to enrich high-ranking Moscow officials.
Police said they had seized “properties for a value of EUR 25 million”, adding that some of the USD 230 million had been funnelled to Russians and front companies in Spain to be invested in the properties.
The Spanish police said that they had worked with Europol, along with Spain’s Special Prosecutor’s Office against Corruption and Organised Crime to uncover “the links with a network of natural and legal persons who would have received part of these fraudulent funds for the acquisition of real estate in our country.”
The Spanish authorities said that they are analysing “more than 1,000 Spanish bank accounts” to determine “the criminal responsibility of those involved”.
They added that the sting was the first of its kind in Spain connected to the Magnitsky case.
They said that most of the people who received funds to invest from the USD 230 million were Russian citizens “with hardly any ties to our country – and legal entities that would have received part of these fraudulent funds for the acquisition of real estate.”
They also said that “people of Russian descent have been detected who have bought luxury mansions with funds from this scheme.”
The investigators explained that the money from the fraud is believed to have “reached the bank accounts of Russian citizens supposedly domiciled in Spain for the acquisition of the properties”.
But they also said that another method of operating was via “Spanish real estate companies”, many with “strong ties to the Russian market”, which were used “as intermediaries, both for receiving the funds through their own bank accounts and for managing the location and purchase of the properties.”
The authorities said that their investigation also took them to the island of Tenerife, where they made one arrest, seizing EUR 30,000 in cash and jewellery. They said they also seized three other properties on the island, as well as two luxury cars.
They said that they have “not ruled out” making further arrests as their investigation progresses.