Guardia Civil officers in Marbella arrested 11 people on Tuesday as part of a massive operation against a suspected Russian mafia money laundering group. Among the detainees were the Russian owner and president of Marbella Football Club, Alexander Grinberg, and the club's vice-president.
Operation 'Oligarkh', which was authorised by a Marbella judge and the anti-corruption prosecution authority, aims to unravel a network set up in Spain by the Solntsevskaya and Izmailovskaya organisations, who are rivals in Russia but appear to be linked in Spain.
One of those detained is Arnold Arnoldovich Spivakovsky, formerly known as Arnold Tamm. Investigators say his arrest is one of the most important carried out in Spain so far, because of his influence and position within the groups. He was arrested in the Nagüeles area of Marbella, although he does not live in the town.
The police say Spivakovsky has close links to another criminal leader, Semion Mogilevich, who features on the FBI and Interpol's 'Ten Most Wanted Criminals' list and is said to have defrauded 150 million euros.
This latest investigation is focusing on a business network which could have been laundering money from these mafia organisations for years. The best-known names among them are Marbella FC, the Agua Sierra de Mijas company and the Dama de Noche golf club, where Grinberg built a sports complex with four training pitches. These were also raided as part of this week's operation. The network used other companies which are quite well-known, including restaurants and fishing businesses. According to the EFE news agency, the Solntsevskaya and Izmailovskaya criminal organisations had used these companies to launder over 30 million euros.
Investigators believe Alexander Grinberg is the head of one of these structures in Spain; he became the main shareholder and president of Marbella FC in 2013, when the club was having a difficult time financially and in sporting terms, and since then it has not only improved economically but has risen to Segunda B (Spanish football's third tier). The vice-president of the club was also arrested, and several board members have been called for questioning.
Grinberg bought the Dama de Noche golf club and built a sports complex there, and the Agua Sierra de Mijas bottled water company, which at the time was also almost bankrupt. Several members of that board were detained by the Guardia Civil.
Grinberg is not only suspected of using his Costa del Sol businesses as a way of laundering money, but also as a way of gaining access to politicians and business owners.
Those arrested are being investigated for a variety of offences, including membership of a criminal organisation, money laundering and tax evasion, among others. Six of the 11 were released after questioning on Wednesday.
The officers carried out a total of 18 searches on the day of the arrests and seized cash, 23 luxury cars including Porsches, Bentleys and Ferraris, and several firearms. As well as homes and company premises, a bank and a yacht berthed in Puerto Banús were also searched as part of the money-laundering investigation.