Spanish officials accused of collaborating with Russian mob
MADRID, March 13 - RAPSI. Several employees of a travel agency and a construction company in the resort town of Lloret de Mar, Spain, said in court on Tuesday that high-ranking Spanish officials collaborated with the "Russian mafia" and also abused their office, the EFE news agency reports.
An unnamed employee of the IA Viajes travel agency said that the alleged chief of the Russian mafia in Spain, Andrei Petrov, bought First Class air tickets for former city mayor Xavier Crespo and his spouse.
According to investigators, Crespo also extorted funds for the city's sports teams from Petrov.
Crespo denies all the charges against him.
The court also heard the testimony of developer Ernesto Coloma, who said that deputy mayor for construction Josep Valls had promised to resolve any problems Coloma may have with the construction department if he agreed to co-sponsor the local football team.
Valls is suspected of abuse of office and of having connections with the Russian criminal group.
Valls and Petrov are the main suspects in the case. Also suspected are president of the city's hockey club Joan Perarnau, architect Pilar Gimeno and Petrov's relatives.
The Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper wrote in February 2013 that the Costa Brava police had detained several high-ranking Spanish officials and suspected members of a Russian criminal group as part of Operation Clotilde.
"The detainees are thought to have laundered 56 million over the past two years through various businesses in Catalonia, including a network of firms which is linked to one of the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives," the police said.
The investigators' suspicions were fuelled by the incredible speed with which Petrov earned his income in the resort town. He came to Lloret de Mar in 2001, was hired to sell traditional Spanish sweetmeats and also drove a taxi in his free time. But three years later, in 2004, he established a property development company, Development Diagnostic Company SL. Petrov quickly found influential patrons in the city's government, including Josep Valls.
The investigators suspect that Valls helped Petrov's firm to obtain the management rights for 35% of the town's new shopping centre. Petrov allegedly concluded many other transactions involving local restaurants, filling stations, parking areas and sport clubs to launder money.