Spanish police break Russian mafia money laundering ring

25th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

Spanish police arrested four people Friday suspected of laundering large sums of money from Russian criminal gangs as part of a network they said may be linked to Semion Mogilevich, one of the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives.

The arrests took place in the Mediterranean coastal town of Lloret de Mar near Barcelona, which has a large Russian community and is popular with tourists from the country, police said in a statement.

The four are suspected of tax fraud, document falsification and money laundering.

"The main activity of the group was laundering money that came from Russia through third countries, some of them considered fiscal paradises, by carrying out real estate and financial investments," the statement said.

The network which the four suspects belonged to may have laundered over 56 million euros ($75 million) in recent years, it added.

Police searches carried out in several locations as part of the operation found evidence that the group had links with major Russian crime groups like Solntsevskaya and Solomonskaya.

"Specifically there is evidence linking some of the firms under investigation with Semion Mogilevich, one of the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives," the statement said.

The FBI suspects Mogilevich, a Ukrainian national, of carrying out a multi-million dollar share fraud scheme in the United States in the 1990s, according to its website.

It is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Among those arrested in Lloret de Mar was Andrei Petrov, a Russian real estate businessman who is suspected of heading the money laundering ring, according to sources close to the investigation.

Spanish authorities are investigating how a firm Petrov owned won a contract in 2009 to build a shopping centre by the beach.

Former Lloret de Mar mayor Xavier Crespo quit his post in 2009 after being accused of receiving over 350,000 euros in under-the-table payments from companies.

He is now a lawmaker in the Catalan regional parliament as a representative for the ruling Convergence and Union alliance.

Lloret de Mar has over 1,800 Russian residents who account for 4.5 percent of the total population of the town.

© 2013 AFP

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