Russian Mafia. Def Minister?

From wikileaks…

1. (C) SUMMARY. This cable, which should be read in
conjunction with Septel analysis, details updates over the
past year in Spain’s two major operations – codenamed Troika
(2008-09) and Avispa (2005-07) – to combat “Russian”
organized crime in Spain. In Spain, the term “Russian mafia”
usually applies not only to Russians, but also to many
nationalities from the former USSR, according to Carlos Resa,
a professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid who
formerly worked at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in
Moscow. END SUMMARY.
//Op Troika and its Updates//
2. (U) Phase I of Op Troika, which was executed in June 2008
resulted in the arrest of 20 top leaders of Russia’s
Tambov-Malyshev crime family for criminal conspiracy, money
laundering, document falsification and crimes against public
finances. Most of those arrested were “Vor z Konen” or
“Thieves in Law,” the highest echelon of Russian OC
leadership. In particular, Gennadios Petrov, the alleged
leader, Alexander Malyshev, Petrov’s deputy, and Vitaly
Izguilov, a key lieutenant who was out on bail from his
arrest in Op Avispa, allegedly formed the leadership of one
of the four largest OC networks in the world and the largest
Russian OC network. Spain served as the group’s safehaven
from authorities and rival OC networks in Russia from which
they directed their illicit business. Baltasar Garzon, the
National Court judge who directed the investigation, accused
the group of laundering money in Spain that came from a range
of illicit activities conducted elsewhere, including contract
killings, arms and drug trafficking, extortion, coercion,
threats, and kidnapping.
3. (U) Following the Troika arrests in June 2008, details
began to appear in the press on the group’s alleged
activities and how the investigation developed. Less than a
month after the arrests, Spain’s flagship daily, center-left
El Pais, published a detailed article claiming that Alexander
Litvinenko – the former Russian intelligence official who
worked on OC issues before he died in late 2006 in London
from poisoning under mysterious circumstances – tipped off
Spanish security officials on the locations, roles, and
activities of several “Russian” mafia figures with ties to
Spain. He allegedly provided information on Izguilov, Zahkar
Kalashov, and Tariel Oniani to GOS officials during a May
2006 meeting.
4. (U) As reported in Ref A, conservative daily ABC in July
2008 reported that the GOS security services tapped
“thousands” of conversations in its two-year investigation.
Unnamed sources told the newspaper that 230 of those
intercepts “will make your hair stand on end” for their
revelations on the Troika defendants’ – especially Petrov’s –
immense power and political connections, as well as the range
of criminal activity in Russia that the Troika defendants
directed from Spain. According to the article, Troika mafia
leaders invoked the names of senior GOR officials to assure
MADRID 00000869 002.2 OF 004
partners that their illicit deals would proceed as planned.
The press suggests this “sensitive” evidence could impact
bilateral relations and adds that the “extremely delicate”
details of Op Troika are so close-hold that barely 10 GOS
officials are aware of them all. In the context of the clout
that Petrov’s network enjoyed and the political connections
it had, multiple Spanish media outlets reported that one of
Petrov’s intercepted phone conversation suggests the Russian
trade attacheXXXXXXXXXXXX reportedly was sailing on Petrov’s yacht on
September 6, 2007, an allegation that Russia’s Ambassador to
Spain publicly denied as “completely false. ”
5. (U) In October 2008, GOS authorities raided the Mallorca
vacation mansion of Vladislav Reznik, chair of the Duma’s
financial markets committee and a Putin ally within the
United Russia party (See Ref B). XXXXXXXXXXXX There is some debate about
whether Reznik bought the house from Petrov or whether it was
a gift. In any event, the two were regularly seen together
on the island, according to press reports. Garzon reportedly
has ordered Reznik’s arrest for money-laundering and for
belonging to a criminal organization. Reznik enjoys immunity
in Russia, but Garzon’s extradition request is valid
throughout the EU-27. In August 2009, the Spanish press
reported that Garzon is investigating claims that Reznik and
the Tambov crime family were involved in a 2008 plot to
kidnap the eldest son of Spanish construction magnate
Francisco Hernando del Saz (aka Paco el Pocero), one of the
richest men in Spain. The plot, disrupted in April
2008, was to ask for a ransom of $30 million dollars. The
leader of the would-be kidnappers reportedly alleges that he
received his orders from Reznik.
6. (U) In October 2008, the Spanish press also profiled
Russian Minister of Defense Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov
for his “very close ties” to Petrov, even naming him as the
“the principal politician” – along with “at least three other
ministers” – that Petrov’s network dealt with.XXXXXXXXXXX El Pais on
June 7, 2009 (Ref C) claimed that, as a result of Troika, the
GOS has compiled a “secret list” of Russian prosecutors,
senior military officers, and politicians – including current
and former ministers – who may have been involved with the
Troika network. According to the article, some of those
Russian officials referred to Petrov as “leader.” Aside from
Igor Soboleski, who was removed from his post as a senior
Russian prosecutor days earlier, the only specific person El
Pais identified for his alleged ties to Petrov was Serdyukov.XXXXXXXXXXX
7. (U) Multiple press reports allege that Moscow was left out
of the loop on the Troika investigation – whose Phase II raid
resulted in the detention of three lawyers in southern Spain
in April 2009 – due to Madrid’s fear of leaks to GOS OC
targets. Moscow reportedly is interested in learning what
exactly the Spanish have as evidence and has sent
investigators to Spain for meetings with GOS officials on
more than a half a dozen occasions since the Troika Phase I
arrests. Spanish President Zapatero and Russian President
Medvedev have met three times since then, including in Madrid
in March 2009, when the two leaders upgraded the bilateral
relationship to a strategic partnership and signed an MoU on
cooperation on OC matters. (See Ref D).
//Op Avispa and its Updates//
8. (U) Op Avispa (“Wasp” in English) – the predecessor to
Troika which was directed by Garzon’s colleague, Judge
Fernando Andreu – targeted the Russian, Georgian and
Ukrainian OC presence in Spain, which allegedly laundered
money from illegal casinos in Russia by investing in the
MADRID 00000869 003.2 OF 004
Spanish real estate market. The op had mixed results: Phase
I, executed in 2005, arrested 28 suspects, 22 of which were
alleged “Vor z Konen” (See Ref E). Phase II in 2006 arrested
nine additional suspects while Phase III in 2007 resulted in
three more arrests, including the Spanish national
government’s number-two official in the Catalan region, for
allegedly helping members of the “Russian” mafia secure work
visas to allow them to enter the country legally. Although
GOS officials in 2005 publicly proclaimed Avispa a success,
subsequent press reports suggest authorities struggled with
leaks and bureaucratic snafus. Zahkar Kalashov and Tariel
Oniani – Georgian-born Russian citizens who were the primary
Avispa targets – apparently were both tipped off hours before
the 2005 raid occurred and fled the country. Recent Spanish
press reports suggest the source of the tip-off remains
unidentified, although the Russian security services or a
corrupt source within the GOS have been cited as possible
culprits. Due to the leak, Izguilov was the most senior
person arrested, although he later was released on bond from
jail due to a technicality. Kalashov – allegedly the top
boss of Russia’s “Solnstevo” crime syndicate – was detained
in Dubai in 2006 and quickly extradited to Spain, which had
put out an arrest warrant for him via Interpol.
9. (U) The Spanish media often describes Kalashov as the
“most valuable and well-protected prisoner in a Spanish jail”
and the “highest level mafia boss arrested outside Russia.”
Kalashov – like Petrov, Malyshev, and Izguilov from Op Troika
– is in an individual cell in an isolation block; all four
are in different prisons. Kalashov faces numerous extra
security measures and is periodically moved from prison to
prison to foil any plots to break him out of jail, according
to Spanish press (see Ref F).
10. (U) Investigating Judge Andreu in October 2008 formally
charged 15 of the 37 people arrested in the first two phases
of Avispa for money laundering, criminal conspiracy, and
falsifying commercial documents. He is seeking 3-12 years
for the defendants, including 12 years and two months for
Kalashov, but a trial date has not yet been set.
11. (U) Against the backdrop of Lukoil’s reported interest in
acquiring a roughly 30 percent stake in Repsol (See Refs G
and H), the Spanish press in November 2008 highlighted that
Kalashov owned a “significant” share in Lukoil and that he
and Tariel Oniani had acted as consultants during 2003-04 to
help bring the Russian energy giant into Spain to open 150
gas stations, among other projects. Citing files provided by
Swiss prosecutors, Spanish court documents estimate
Kalashov’s personal fortune at 200 million euros.
12. (U) Kalashov shuffled his attorneys in December 2008.
Days later, one of his new lawyers, Alfonso Diaz Monux, was
shot dead in his Madrid garage by unknown hitmen, although by
all accounts, Diaz had received death threats for roughly a
year due to his work on behalf of another client.
13. (U) In March 2009, the press reported that Spanish
prosecutors had secured the cooperation of a protected
witness against Kalashov who made a sworn statement in July
2008 that the crime boss had approached him in 2007 – while
both were in prison – to launder 300 million euros. The
alleged witness, former Galician drug trafficker Pablo
Vioque, was released from prison in April 2008 for health
reasons and died of terminal cancer in December 2008. Things
took yet another unexpected turn when Vioque’s adult children
– days after his death – publicly claimed that their father
had never been a protected witness in the Kalashov case and
said that he never made a sworn statement to that effect,
MADRID 00000869 004.2 OF 004
although they acknowledged that police officers met their
father at their home in his dying days.
//GOS Seeks Arrest, Extradition of Additional “Russian” OC
Figures//
14. (SBU) Spanish press reports suggest that Madrid has
expressed interest in the extradition of Tariel Oniani, whom
Russian authorities arrested in Moscow in June 2009. Spain
has sought Oniani through Interpol since 2005. However,
Antonio Baquero, a journalist with Barcelona-based El
Periodico who has written on Oniani’s arrest,XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested to
POLOFF on August 17 that Moscow is unlikely to extradite
Oniani to Spain.
15. (C) Madrid in recent months also has sought the arrest
of Michael Cherney, a Russian-born, Israeli citizen for whom
Spain’s National Court has issued an international arrest
warrant that accuses him of money laundering and illicit
association in connection with Op Avispa. Cherney (aka
Mikhail Chernoy) reportedly owns several companies in Spain
that the Avispa defendants used to help launder money.
Center-right El Mundo on July 6, 2009 published a highly
detailed account of the GOS’s fruitless efforts to have
British authorities arrest Cherney during a visit to London
in late May. Post’s LEGAT Section confirms the basis of the
article.

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