One of the embargoed properties. / sur

Watch as Spain deals massive blow to corruption at highest levels of Russia's Kremlin

Police have embargoed 75 properties worth 25 million euros and arrested the head of the money-laundering gang in the Canary Islands

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO MADRID.

Spain has dealt the biggest blow in Europe to money laundering and corruption linked to the highest levels of the Kremlin.

In a joint operation with Europol, the National Police have embargoed at least 75 properties valued at 25 million euros which are believed to have been acquired with money from the ‘Magnitsky Case’, a gigantic corrupt network of high-ranking Russian officials very close to Putin, who have defrauded more than 230 million dollars.

Spanish police have also arrested the alleged head of this immense money laundering network in Tenerife and they believe several estate agencies, especially in the Canaries, are involved in the crimes.

Magnitsky Case

This was the first operation in Spain relating to the Magnitsky Case, which began with the theft of documentation from companies associated with a Russian investment fund. The corrupt officials who carried it out demanded a refund worth millions from the Russian tax authority.

The investigation identified a number of people, most of them Russian but with few links to Spain, and companies which had received part of these fraudulent funds to purchase properties. Russian nationals had also bought luxury mansions using these funds.

One thousand bank accounts

The police observed two modus operandi. In one, the money from the fraud arrived directly in the bank accounts of Russian nationals who lived in Spain, to buy property. In the other, Spanish estate agencies with close links to the Russian market acted as intermediaries and received the money through their own bank accounts for locating and purchasing properties.

The investigators analysed more than 1,000 Spanish bank accounts to determine who was responsible for the crimes, in an operation which was unprecedented because of the amount of information it involved. So far, 75 property purchases have been identified, worth around 25 million euros.

As well as the arrest on Tenerife, four searches have been carried out and a large quantity of documentation in paper and digital format has been seized, together with 30,000 euros in cash and several items of jewellery. The investigators have also requested permission to embargo three more properties, two high-end vehicles and 19 bank accounts linked to the alleged head of the money laundering gang.

The investigation is continuing and further arrests have not been ruled out.