251,287 cables indexed
Reference ID: 10MADRID154
Subject: SPAIN DETAILS ITS STRATEGY TO COMBAT THE RUSSIAN MAFIA
Origin: Embassy Madrid, Spain Classification: SECRET//NOFORN
Created:08 Feb 2010 Released:02 Dec 2010
Tags: KCOR, KHLS, KJUS, PGOV, PINR, PINS, PREL, PTER, RS, SP, XH

This is the cable as published by The Guardian on 01 Dec 2010, compared to the unredacted source.

This cable has also been published by Le Monde (France) and El Pais (Spain).

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 MADRID 000154
NOFORN
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/WE (ALEX MCKNIGHT, STACIE ZERDECKI),
EUR/ERA (ALESSANDRO NARDI), INR/TNC (JENNIFER MCELVEEN,
STEPHEN WOROBEC), INL (ELIZABETH VERVILLE, SCOTT HARRIS), L
(KEN PROPP),
EMBASSY MOSCOW (THOMAS FIRESTONE)
DEPARTMENT PASS TO NSC (GREG GATJANIS)
DEPARTMENT PASS TO ODNI/NIC (JOHN REGAS, MAT BURROWS)
DEPARTMENT PASS TO FBI (BARRY M. BRAUN,KAREN GREENAWAY)
DEPARTMENT PASS TO DOJ (BRUCE SWARTZ, TOM OTT, BRUCE OHR,
LISA HOLTYN)
DEPARTMENT PASS TO TREASURY/OFFICE OF TERRORISM AND
FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE (BOB WERNER)

E.O. 12958:EO 12958 DECL: 02/08/2035
TAGS:KJUS, KHLS, PGOV, PREL, PTER, SP, PINS, KCOR, PINR,
XH, RS
SUBJECT: SPAIN DETAILS ITS STRATEGY TO COMBAT THE RUSSIAN




MAFIA
REF: A. MADRID 76 B. 09 MADRID 869 C. 09 MADRID 870 D. 09 MADRID 1003
MADRID 00000154 001.2 OF 005
Classified By: POLCOUNS William H. Duncan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: National Court Prosecutor Jose
"Pepe" Grinda Gonzalez on January 14 gave a detailed, frank
assessment of the activities and reach of organized crime
(OC) in both Eurasia and Spain and Spain's strategy for how
best to combat it in court. As he did so, he evaluated the
levels of cooperation that Spain receives from numerous
countries. Grinda presented his remarks on January 13 at the
new US-Spain Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Experts
Working Group meeting in Madrid (See Ref A). He provided a
17-page, English-language handout entitled, "The Organized
Crime and the Russian Mafia," which he used as the basis for
his remarks, which were more explicit than the document is.
(NOTE: Post will send a copy of the handout to interested
parties.) Grinda's comments are insightful and valuable,
given his in-depth knowledge of the Eurasian mafia and his
key role in Spain's pioneering efforts to bring Eurasian
mafia leaders to justice. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.
//Bio Info//
2. (S//NF) Grinda, a Special Prosecutor for Corruption and
Organized Crime, in early December wrapped up his prosecution
of the alleged OC network led by Zahkar Kalashov, the
Georgian-born, Russian citizen who allegedly is a "vor v
zakone," ("Thief in Law," the highest echelon of Russian OC
leadership) and reportedly the most senior Russian mafia
figure jailed outside Russia. The defendants were arrested
as part of Operation Avispa (see Refs B and C). A verdict is
expected by early February, according to Belen Suarez, Deputy
Prosecutor for Corruption and Organized Crime and one of
Grinda's superiors. Grinda is known to Post's Legat Office
as a skilled and rigorous professional with deep subject
matter expertise. He is forward-leaning in his cooperation
with the USG and grateful for USG assistance. His work
places him under considerable stress, which make him
suspicious of penetration attempts by intelligence services
and causes him to have heightened sensitivities regarding his
physical security. Grinda also will be the prosecutor in the
trial for those arrested in Operation Troika (See Refs B and
C).
//Nomenclature//
3. (C) Grinda's was the first presentation at the January 13
meeting and his candor set the tone for an open exchange of
ideas and information. He began by urging those present to
speak frankly with each other in this closed door session.
He said that what we are confronting is the "Russian mafia"
even if the term "Eurasian mafia" is more socially acceptable
and what the Russians certainly prefer. He acknowledged that
the term Russian mafia can be a misnomer since these criminal
groups sometimes involve Ukrainians, Georgians, Belarusians
MADRID 00000154 002.2 OF 005
or Chechens. He nevertheless questioned the stigma
surrounding the phrase "Russian mafia" and noted it is
acceptable to say "Sicilian mafia. "
4. (C//NF) Grinda stated that he considers Belarus, Chechnya
and Russia to be virtual "mafia states" and said that Ukraine
is going to be one. For each of those countries, he alleged,
one cannot differentiate between the activities of the
government and OC groups.
//Identifying The Scope of The Threat the Russian Mafia
Poses//
5. (C) Grinda suggested that there are two reasons to worry
about the Russian mafia. First, it exercises "tremendous
control" over certain strategic sectors of the global
economy, such as aluminum. He made a passing remark that the
USG has a strategic problem in that the Russian mafia is
suspected of having a sizable investment in General Motors
via its interest in Canadian auto parts maker Magna
International.
XXXXXXXXXXXX 6. (S//NF) The second reason is the unanswered question
regarding the extent to which Russian PM Putin is implicated
in the Russian mafia and whether he controls the mafia's
actions. Grinda cited a "thesis" by 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, that the Russian intelligence
and security services - Grinda cited the Federal Security
Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and
military intelligence (GRU) - control OC in Russia. Grinda
stated that he believes this thesis is accurate. (COMMENT:
See Ref B on a reported meeting between Litvinenko and the
Spanish security services shortly before his death.) Grinda
said that he believes the FSB is "absorbing" the Russian
mafia but they can also "eliminate" them in two ways: by
killing OC leaders who do not do what the security services
want them to do or by putting them behind bars to eliminate
them as a competitor for influence. The crimelords can also
be put in jail for their own protection.
7. (S//NF) Grinda said that according to information he has
received from intelligence services, witnesses and phone
taps, certain political parties in Russia operate "hand in
hand" with OC. For example, he argued that the Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) was created by the KGB and its
successor, the SVR, and is home to many serious criminals.
Grinda further alleged that there are proven ties between the
Russian political parties, organized crime and arms
trafficking. Without elaborating, he cited the strange case
of the "Arctic Sea" ship in mid-2009 as "a clear example" of
arms trafficking.
8. (S//NF) Grinda said what he has read from 10-12 years'
worth of investigations on OC has led him to believe that
whereas terrorists aim to substitute the essence of the state
itself, OC seeks to be a complement to state structures. He
summarized his views by asserting that the GOR's strategy is
MADRID 00000154 003.2 OF 005
to use OC groups to do whatever the GOR cannot acceptably do
as a government. As an example, he cited Kalashov, whom he
said worked for Russian military intelligence to sell weapons
to the Kurds to destabilize Turkey. Grinda claimed that the
GOR takes the relationship with OC leaders even further by
granting them the privileges of politics, in order to grant
them immunity from racketeering charges.
//The Spanish Strategy to Combat the Russian Mafia: Follow
the Money//
9. (C) Grinda traced the history of the Russian mafia in
Spain to the mid-1990s, when several vory v zakone began to
enter Spain. He said that since 2004 Spanish prosecutors
have created a formal strategy to "behead" the Russian mafia
in Spain. He explained that this has been a top-down
strategy done through extensive investigations of criminal
actions by these vory v zakone living in Spain. These
individuals have no known jobs and unknown sources of income,
yet they live in large mansions. Spanish prosecutors have
concluded that money-laundering is likely involved and the
challenge has been how to prove this. Grinda says that
Spain's longtime experience in fighting drug traffickers' use
of money laundering has proven valuable in this regard.
10. (C) Grinda says the money-laundering investigations have
a two-fold objective: to prevent the targets from profiting
from the original crime and to prevent the targets from
gaining enough clout to enjoy economic influence, which
Grinda suggested sooner or later always reaches political
power. This is why Spain's Attorney General has grouped
together the prosecutors' office for anti-corruption and
organized crime. As part of this strategy to prevent
mafiosos from enjoying economic influence, Spain's strategy
includes the seizure of businesses, companies, furniture and
other assets.
11. (C) Grinda also addressed the challenges of combating OC
when it enjoys political, economic, social and - especially -
legal protection. Grinda applauded a document provided by
the U.S. delegation which addressed the important role the
media can play in warning the public of OC's activities and
the threat that OC poses. The media can create an
environment in which politicians would be reluctant to be
friends with and do favors for mafia leaders, whom Grinda
argued need to be seen as shady figures to be feared.
Regarding legal protection, Grinda stated that a key factor
in a government's ability to combat OC depends on the extent
to which the country's best attorneys and law firms represent
the mafia. In this regard, he asked rhetorically, "Why is
Cuatrecases constantly defending Russian mafia members?"
(COMMENT: Cuatrecases is one of Spain's leading law firms.
Its website, available in English, is www.cuatrecasas.com. )
12. (C) Grinda stated that OC begins to accumulate both
economic and political power when it begins to bid for
contract tenders on civil works and infrastructure projects.
MADRID 00000154 004.2 OF 005
He noted, however, that the vory v zakone do not engage in
racketeering and murder, preferring to distance themselves
from this activity and focus on crimes that are further up in
the hierarchy, such as corruption of high-level ministers.
The level of power that vory v zakone operate at is indicated
by their level of interaction with these public servants,
because cabinet-level officials do not spend time with
unimportant people and cannot be tempted by those who do not
have something important to offer. Grinda commented that
Gennadios Petrov, the chief target of Spain's Operation
Troika (See Refs B and C), was engaged in a "dangerously
close" level of contact with senior Russian officials.
COMMENT: In a surprise move, Spanish judges granted bail to
Petrov, who is out on house arrest as of January 31, 2010.
END COMMENT.
//Thoughts on International Collaboration//
13. (S//NF) Grinda addressed the collaboration Spain
receives from other countries regarding the Russian mafia.
Early in his remarks, he thanked the U.S. delegation for
Washington's assistance to his office on corruption and OC
issues. He said that it is important to have the DOJ, FBI,
and Post's Legat office as collaborating partners and
assessed that he and his U.S. interlocutors collaborate in "a
very efficient manner." He added that the close level of
US-GOS cooperation on OC issues is known in some circles and
has led some to say that he and Spain are "the executing hand
of the USG regarding the Russian mafia." He said that
description is fine by him.
14. (S//NF) Grinda said that the Spanish National Police
(SNP), the Civil Guard (GC), Spain's financial intelligence
unit (SEPBLAC), and the surveillance division of the Customs
Police together have compiled a solid portfolio of
information on the Russian mafia in Spain. He added that
Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and the USG have been
valuable partners in supplementing this information to
further flesh out Grinda's office's understanding of the
Russian mafia's activities. He added that Spain is beginning
to collaborate with France on these issues, but singled out
the United Kingdom for its lack of cooperation. (See Ref B
regarding Spain's failed efforts in May 2009 to have the UK
arrest and extradite Michael Cherney, a Russian-born, Israeli
citizen for whom Spain has issued an international arrest
warrant that accuses him of money laundering and illicit
association in connection with Operation Avispa. Cherney
(aka Mikhail Chernoy) reportedly owns several companies in
Spain that the Avispa defendants used to help launder money.)
XXXXXXXXXXXX 15. (S//NF) Grinda described OC as "very powerful" in Georgia
and claimed that the intertwined ties there between the
government and OC began under former President Shevardnadze,
when he alleges a paramilitary group served as a de facto
shadow presidency. Although Grinda acknowledged improvements
under current President Saakashvili, he said that there are
still "limitations" in Georgia's efforts to combat OC.
Citing his personal experience in trying to secure Georgian
assistance in the prosecution of Kalashov's OC network in
MADRID 00000154 005.2 OF 005
Spain (See upcoming septel on the Kalashov trial), Grinda
said that he feels "completely abandoned" and "betrayed" by
Georgia and the explanations that he has received from
Georgia regarding its lack of cooperation are "more pathetic
than the betrayal itself. "
16. (S//NF) To illustrate his thoughts on the level of
cooperation Spain receives from Russia, Grinda reviewed
Spain's efforts to arrest Tariel Oniani as part of Operation
Avispa. (See Refs B, C and D.) In June 2005, Georgian-born
Oniani fled to Russia hours before he was to be arrested in
Spain and Russia gave him citizenship in April 2006, despite
the fact that he had fled Spanish justice. Grinda alleged
that the granting of citizenship was neither "innocent" nor
"something done for free," and was an example of Russia
putting crimelords to work on behalf of its interests.
Grinda alleged that the Russian Ministry of Interior and the
FSB are closely protecting Oniani in Russia (even in prison).
Following Oniani's arrest in Moscow in June 2009, Spain
requested his extradition for charges stemming from Operation
Avispa, to which Russia replied that Oniani's Russian
citizenship prevented him from being extradited. Grinda said
that Russia "always tells Spain that it will take away
Oniani's citizenship, but it never does." Grinda said that,
from his experience, "A virture of the Russian government is
that it will always say and do the same thing: nothing. "
17. (U) The U.S. delegation to US-Spain Counter-Terrorism and
Organized Crime Experts Working Group cleared this cable.
SOLOMONT