Marbella has long had an association with the jet-set and the rich and famous from all walks of life. Now a new book will lift the lid on the town's criminal element who chose Marbella to run their enterprises. Authored by Rainer Helin, the son of a notorious member of the Estonian underworld, the book opens the door to a glamorous lifestyle fuelled by drugs, beautiful women, Ferraris, yachts, and high-society parties attended by some of Europe's biggest criminal families.
Rainer, the son of Toomas Helin - a man known as the 'Estonian Pablo Escobar' - was born in Zurich in 1992 and came to live in Marbella in 1995. After graduating from Tallinn University with a degree in Audio-visual Media from the Baltic Film and Media School, he spent several years working as a copywriter.
This first book, The Drug Lord's Son, is a true account of his childhood, which was spent between Marbella, Malta and Mallorca. The politely spoken 29-year-old, who was educated at Aloha College, decided to publish his memoirs following his father's sudden death in Marbella earlier this year.
"Writing the book, which I started several years ago, was something that helped me come to terms with the death my father. I was not in touch with him for the last seven years, but he actually called me a few days before he died, which was his way of asking for forgiveness and trying to make amends. This helped me remember him and my childhood in a bittersweet light," Rainer explains to SUR in English.
Life of luxury
Also known as the 'drug baron of Marbella', Toomas Helin fled post-Soviet Estonia and headed to Marbella for a life of luxury, but his empire would be shattered after he received a seven-year jail sentence for drug-related crimes in 2005. Estonian police considered him to be the leader of the Linnuvabriku crime group, the second most influential after the Albanians, although this was never proven during his trial.
During his criminal career, Toomas was also suspected of smuggling a tonne of cannabis from Africa into Europe. The case gained notoriety because bail was set at 1.5 million Estonian kroons, the largest bail ever set in Estonia at that time. He was also suspected of stealing more than 60 luxury cars from Germany and selling them in France and Spain, making a reputed profit of 4 million euros. However, Rainer says that, although his father was a criminal, he was not necessarily a bad man.
"My father was not so well known internationally, but in Estonia he had an infamous reputation, although he was a very private man. I grew up alongside the criminal underworld of Marbella, but my father did his best to keep our family as far away from that as possible," the author declares.
Rainer was a "naive teenager" when he realised what his father did for a living. He claims that he was not proud of his father's status and had no intentions of following in his footsteps.
"I would never go as far as to say I am proud of his reputation, but there are always two sides to every story. Maybe he wasn't the best husband, but he definitely tried to be a good father, although I never wanted to take the same route as him," he says.
Rainer now has a family of his own and he is determined to put his father's chequered past to rest, which he claims can be difficult to do, especially when visiting Estonia.
"Just because someone's father was a criminal does not necessarily mean that his children are the same, although we do have to sometimes pay the price for their notoriety," he concludes.