Cablegate: Updates in Spain's Investigations of Russian Mafia
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHMRE RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHMD #0869/01 2431449
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 311449Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1158
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV 0026
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1084
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0965
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI 0057
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 4106
RUCNOSC/ORG FOR SECURITY CO OP IN EUROPE COLLECTIVE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 0174
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHMD/USDAO MADRID SP
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MADRID 000869
FOR ALEX MCKNIGHT AND STACIE ZERDECKI OF EUR/WE
JENNIFER MCELVEEN AND STEPHEN WOROBEC OF INR/TNC
PASS TO BARRY M. BRAUN AND KAREN GREENAWAY OF FBI’S
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION
PASS TO BRUCE OHR OF DOJ’S CRIMINAL DIVISION
MOSCOW PLEASE PASS TO ST PETERSBURG
EO 12958 DECL: 08/17/2019
TAGS PREL, PINR, KCRM, KCOR, KJUS, SP, RS, GG, UP
SUBJECT: UPDATES IN SPAIN’S INVESTIGATIONS OF RUSSIAN MAFIA
REF: A. OSC EUP20080707950031 B. OSC EUP20081019950022 C. OSC EUP20090608178005 D. MADRID 286 E. OSC EUP20050620950076 F. OSC EUP20080708950049 G. OSC EUP20081029950032 H. OSC EUP 20061127123001
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Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Arnold A. Chacon for reasons 1.4 (b) a nd (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. This cable, which should be read in conjunction with Septel analysis, details updates over the past year in Spain’s two major operations - codenamed Troika (2008-09) and Avispa (2005-07) - to combat “Russian” organized crime in Spain. In Spain, the term “Russian mafia” usually applies not only to Russians, but also to many nationalities from the former USSR, according to Carlos Resa, a professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid who formerly worked at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Moscow. END SUMMARY.
//Op Troika and its Updates//
2. (U) Phase I of Op Troika, which was executed in June 2008 resulted in the arrest of 20 top leaders of Russia’s Tambov-Malyshev crime family for criminal conspiracy, money laundering, document falsification and crimes against public finances. Most of those arrested were “Vor z Konen” or “Thieves in Law,” the highest echelon of Russian OC leadership. In particular, Gennadios Petrov, the alleged leader, Alexander Malyshev, Petrov’s deputy, and Vitaly Izguilov, a key lieutenant who was out on bail from his arrest in Op Avispa, allegedly formed the leadership of one of the four largest OC networks in the world and the largest Russian OC network. Spain served as the group’s safehaven from authorities and rival OC networks in Russia from which they directed their illicit business. Baltasar Garzon, the National Court judge who directed the investigation, accused the group of laundering money in Spain that came from a range of illicit activities conducted elsewhere, including contract killings, arms and drug trafficking, extortion, coercion, threats, and kidnapping.
3. (U) Following the Troika arrests in June 2008, details began to appear in the press on the group’s alleged activities and how the investigation developed. Less than a month after the arrests, Spain’s flagship daily, center-left El Pais, published a detailed article claiming that Alexander Litvinenko - the former Russian intelligence official who worked on OC issues before he died in late 2006 in London from poisoning under mysterious circumstances - tipped off Spanish security officials on the locations, roles, and activities of several “Russian” mafia figures with ties to Spain. He allegedly provided information on Izguilov, Zahkar Kalashov, and Tariel Oniani to GOS officials during a May 2006 meeting.
4. (U) As reported in Ref A, conservative daily ABC in July 2008 reported that the GOS security services tapped “thousands” of conversations in its two-year investigation. Unnamed sources told the newspaper that 230 of those intercepts “will make your hair stand on end” for their revelations on the Troika defendants’ - especially Petrov’s - immense power and political connections, as well as the range of criminal activity in Russia that the Troika defendants directed from Spain. According to the article, Troika mafia leaders invoked the names of senior GOR officials to assure
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partners that their illicit deals would proceed as planned. The press suggests this “sensitive” evidence could impact bilateral relations and adds that the “extremely delicate” details of Op Troika are so close-hold that barely 10 GOS officials are aware of them all. In the context of the clout that Petrov’s network enjoyed and the political connections it had, multiple Spanish media outlets reported that one of Petrov’s intercepted phone conversation suggests the Russian XXXXXXXXXXXX reportedly was sailing on Petrov’s yacht on September 6, 2007, an allegation that Russia’s Ambassador to Spain publicly denied as “completely false.”
5. (U) In October 2008, GOS authorities raided the Mallorca vacation mansion of Vladislav Reznik, chair of the Duma’s financial markets committee and a Putin ally within the United Russia party (See Ref B). XXXXXXXXXXXX There is some debate about whether Reznik bought the house from Petrov or whether it was a gift. In any event, the two were regularly seen together on the island, according to press reports. Garzon reportedly has ordered Reznik’s arrest for money-laundering and for belonging to a criminal organization. Reznik enjoys immunity in Russia, but Garzon’s extradition request is valid throughout the EU-27. In August 2009, the Spanish press reported that Garzon is investigating claims that Reznik and the Tambov crime family were involved in a 2008 plot to kidnap the eldest son of Spanish construction magnate Francisco Hernando del Saz (aka Paco el Pocero), one of the richest men in Spain. The plot, disrupted in April 2008, was to ask for a ransom of $30 million dollars. The leader of the would-be kidnappers reportedly alleges that he received his orders from Reznik.
6. (U)XXXXXXXXXXX El Pais on June 7, 2009 (Ref C) claimed that, as a result of Troika, the GOS has compiled a “secret list” of Russian prosecutors, senior military officers, and politicians - including current and former ministers - who may have been involved with the Troika network. According to the article, some of those Russian officials referred to Petrov as “leader.” XXXXXXXXXXX
7. (U) Multiple press reports allege that Moscow was left out of the loop on the Troika investigation - whose Phase II raid resulted in the detention of three lawyers in southern Spain in April 2009 - due to Madrid’s fear of leaks to GOS OC targets. Moscow reportedly is interested in learning what exactly the Spanish have as evidence and has sent investigators to Spain for meetings with GOS officials on more than a half a dozen occasions since the Troika Phase I arrests. Spanish President Zapatero and Russian President Medvedev have met three times since then, including in Madrid in March 2009, when the two leaders upgraded the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership and signed an MoU on cooperation on OC matters. (See Ref D).
//Op Avispa and its Updates//
8. (U) Op Avispa (“Wasp” in English) - the predecessor to Troika which was directed by Garzon’s colleague, Judge Fernando Andreu - targeted the Russian, Georgian and Ukrainian OC presence in Spain, which allegedly laundered money from illegal casinos in Russia by investing in the
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Spanish real estate market. The op had mixed results: Phase I, executed in 2005, arrested 28 suspects, 22 of which were alleged “Vor z Konen” (See Ref E). Phase II in 2006 arrested nine additional suspects while Phase III in 2007 resulted in three more arrests, including the Spanish national government’s number-two official in the Catalan region, for allegedly helping members of the “Russian” mafia secure work visas to allow them to enter the country legally. Although GOS officials in 2005 publicly proclaimed Avispa a success, subsequent press reports suggest authorities struggled with leaks and bureaucratic snafus. Zahkar Kalashov and Tariel Oniani - Georgian-born Russian citizens who were the primary Avispa targets - apparently were both tipped off hours before the 2005 raid occurred and fled the country. Recent Spanish press reports suggest the source of the tip-off remains unidentified, although the Russian security services or a corrupt source within the GOS have been cited as possible culprits. Due to the leak, Izguilov was the most senior person arrested, although he later was released on bond from jail due to a technicality. Kalashov - allegedly the top boss of Russia’s “Solnstevo” crime syndicate - was detained in Dubai in 2006 and quickly extradited to Spain, which had put out an arrest warrant for him via Interpol.
9. (U) The Spanish media often describes Kalashov as the “most valuable and well-protected prisoner in a Spanish jail” and the “highest level mafia boss arrested outside Russia.” Kalashov - like Petrov, Malyshev, and Izguilov from Op Troika - is in an individual cell in an isolation block; all four are in different prisons. Kalashov faces numerous extra security measures and is periodically moved from prison to prison to foil any plots to break him out of jail, according to Spanish press (see Ref F).
10. (U) Investigating Judge Andreu in October 2008 formally charged 15 of the 37 people arrested in the first two phases of Avispa for money laundering, criminal conspiracy, and falsifying commercial documents. He is seeking 3-12 years for the defendants, including 12 years and two months for Kalashov, but a trial date has not yet been set.
11. (U) Against the backdrop of Lukoil’s reported interest in acquiring a roughly 30 percent stake in Repsol (See Refs G and H), the Spanish press in November 2008 highlighted that Kalashov owned a “significant” share in Lukoil and that he and Tariel Oniani had acted as consultants during 2003-04 to help bring the Russian energy giant into Spain to open 150 gas stations, among other projects. Citing files provided by Swiss prosecutors, Spanish court documents estimate Kalashov’s personal fortune at 200 million euros.
12. (U) Kalashov shuffled his attorneys in December 2008. Days later, one of his new lawyers, Alfonso Diaz Monux, was shot dead in his Madrid garage by unknown hitmen, although by all accounts, Diaz had received death threats for roughly a year due to his work on behalf of another client.
13. (U) In March 2009, the press reported that Spanish prosecutors had secured the cooperation of a protected witness against Kalashov who made a sworn statement in July 2008 that the crime boss had approached him in 2007 - while both were in prison - to launder 300 million euros. The alleged witness, former Galician drug trafficker Pablo Vioque, was released from prison in April 2008 for health reasons and died of terminal cancer in December 2008. Things took yet another unexpected turn when Vioque’s adult children - days after his death - publicly claimed that their father had never been a protected witness in the Kalashov case and said that he never made a sworn statement to that effect,
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although they acknowledged that police officers met their father at their home in his dying days.
//GOS Seeks Arrest, Extradition of Additional “Russian” OC Figures//
14. (SBU) Spanish press reports suggest that Madrid has expressed interest in the extradition of Tariel Oniani, whom Russian authorities arrested in Moscow in June 2009. Spain has sought Oniani through Interpol since 2005. However,XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested to POLOFF on August 17 that Moscow is unlikely to extradite Oniani to Spain.
15. (C) Madrid in recent months also has sought the arrest of Michael Cherney, a Russian-born, Israeli citizen for whom Spain’s National Court has issued an international arrest warrant that accuses him of money laundering and illicit association in connection with Op Avispa. Cherney (aka Mikhail Chernoy) reportedly owns several companies in Spain that the Avispa defendants used to help launder money. Center-right El Mundo on July 6, 2009 published a highly detailed account of the GOS’s fruitless efforts to have British authorities arrest Cherney during a visit to London in late May. Post’s LEGAT Section confirms the basis of the article. CHACON