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Mob bosses arraigned in major organized crime case

 The investigation, known as Case 512, covers a global drug trafficking, money laundering and tax evasion network run by the Abergil family mainly from 2002-2006.
Crime kingpins Yitzhak and Meir Abergil and 18 associates were arraigned by the Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday for a range of murders and failed attempts on the life of rival gangster Ze’ev Rosenstein, including one in Tel Aviv in December 2003 that left three bystanders dead and dozens injured.
Other top criminals indicted included Avi Ruhan and Moti Hassin – both mob bosses in their own right and close associates of the Abergils.
The investigation, known as Case 512, covered a global drug trafficking, money laundering and tax evasion network run by the Abergil family when they were on top of the Israeli underworld, mainly from 2002-2006.
The case has captured headlines for months, largely because of the more than a half a dozen mob bosses included among the more than 40 suspects.
At the hearing, each of the defendants and their lawyers, one after the next, identically asked the court for more time to review the more than 1,000 recordings and 1,000 legal binders of documents in the case before formally responding to the charges against them. The court granted all of the defendants until September 16.
A few of the defendants had not decided whether to hire private lawyers, as the Abergils had, or to seek representation from the Public Defender’s Office. The court gave defendants who had not selected a lawyer 21 days to make the decision and scheduled the trial to start on January 10, 2016.
The case includes seven state’s witnesses mentioned in the indictments, among them well-known and feared mafia enforcers, drug traffickers and associates of the Abergil family.
Yitzhak Abergil has been in prison for a range of criminal offenses linked to his time as one of the country’s leading crime bosses. He also served some jail time in the US prior to his extradition to Israel in January 2014. His conviction in the US and extradition were the result of one of the most complex joint Israel-US criminal investigations ever carried out, in light of his stature in the organized crime world.
The indictment focuses on the criminal syndicate’s operations from 2002 to 2006, when it imported and exported Ecstasy, cocaine, hashish and other drugs around the globe from North America to New Zealand, Japan, Europe and South America. The drug trafficking reached a value of some NIS 228 million during that period, the indictment states.
Yitzhak Abergil was at the top of the totem pole and managed all the different arms of the organization – the primary groups being in Israel, Europe and Japan.
The indictment details how in May and June 2003, Abergil plotted unsuccessfully with Yaniv Ben-Simon, his righthand man, and D.D., a former top operative turned state’s witness whose name is under gag order, to murder Rosenstein in Tel Aviv.
In November 2003, Abergil and several others made another attempt on Rosenstein’s life at a currency exchange establishment on Yehuda Halevi Street in Tel Aviv, where he did business, by placing a bomb on the awning of the storefront.
On December 11, 2003, the group activated the bomb when Rosenstein was nearby, killing bystanders Rahamim Tzruya, Moshe Mizrahi and Naftali Magad, and wounding Rosenstein and 50 others, including bodyguards and bystanders.
The case is broken down into 13 separate indictments, some for drug charges and others for murders. One, named “The Big Score,” gives a window into how the international operations of the Abergil family and their associates made millions in drug trafficking and covered their tracks through legitimate businesses. The case names four defendants, including the Abergil brothers, Ruhan and Canadian-Israeli businessman Sami Biton.
The case began in 1998, when two Abergil associates purchased 800 kg. of cocaine in Peru and stashed it inside the wheels of a large industrial machine. Eventually, sometime between 2001 and 2002, a plot was worked out to ship the machine to Canada, where Biton stashed it in a warehouse belonging to his company, Sanielle Finance.
The indictments also cover the 2003 murder of an Abergil associate named David Biton, who allegedly was killed because he mouthed off about some of the crime family’s associates.

Ben Hartman contributed to this story.

Over 100 Russian mafia dons to meet in Turkey for mob summit

After the Russian Interior Ministry announced it would intervene if they held their summit in Russia, Russian mob bosses decided to hold their meeting in Turkey instead over security concerns.

According to a source from the Russian security forces who talked to local news agency Rosbalt, the decision to move the mob summit over to Turkey was taken after the Interior Ministry announced, “If you meet anywhere within Russia we will intervene.”

Allegedly it was Gela Kardava who put forward the idea to hold the summit in Turkey, an idea looked up warmly by Zakhar Kalashov, the leader of the Russian-Georgian mafia worldwide.

The source added that an exact date for the Turkey summit was not known.
According to Spanish newspaper ABC, Russian and Georgian mob bosses also held a similar summit in Athens, Greece in 2013. ABC claimed that it was during that summit that Kalashov was elected the leader of the Russian-Georgian mafia worldwide.

Albania: Police Bust Hitman Gang Run By Jailed Crime Boss

 Friday, 17 July 2015 14:25

Albanian police say they have busted a gang of hired assassins which was being run from the prison cell of a convicted murderer.

Police said Wednesday that they have arrested eight suspects, issued arrest warrants for two others and are investigating a further three as part of Operation Epilogue.
Among those detained are two of the gang’s suspected hitmen, Kristi Pine and Alfred Qefalia. Both Pine and Qefalia were arrested by Albanian police in February this year.
Paul Elson Merdani, brother-in-law of the organization’s boss, Tafilaj, was also arrested earlier this year for his role in the criminal group.
Balkan Insight reports that the gang of 13 people charged between € 20,000 (US$ 21,800) and € 50,000 (US$ 54,400) to carry out a hit. The criminal organization is also accused of a multitude of other crimes including murder, drugs and arms trafficking and organized crime.
Albanian media claim the gang is suspected of organizing at least four murders.
The police are continuing to work with the Tirana Prosecutor for Serious Crimes to look for additional suspects.

Weapons Trafficking Ring Dismantled

13:51, July 22, 2015

Russian authorities have dismantled a weapon trafficking ring they say was running a supply chain from Ukraine and the European Union to Russia.
According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), authorities detained 14 members of the organized crime group throughout July. While no names have been released, authorities say that one of the suspects is a previously convicted citizen of Azerbaijan, and that three are Russian police officers.
Members of the crime ring allegedly used forged identification documents and fake license plates on the vehicles used to conduct the trade..
 More than 150 firearms of foreign and domestic make were seized during the special operation – including machine guns, rifles, sidearms, more than 10 kilograms of explosives, parts enough to build more than 200 weapons and even a grenade launcher.
Furthermore, authorities say they destroyed four illegal weapons production facilities and two workshops producing ammunition.
In June, the FSB dismantled another group they say smuggled weapons into Russia – three Russians and one Latvian citizen who allegedly smuggled the weapons across the border, as well as five of their associates from Russia. Thirty types of firearms, 13 grenades and 15 kilograms of explosives were found.

The Murky Business of an Israeli MP in Bulgaria

Published: Monday, 06 July 2015 16:49

Israeli Deputy Speaker of Parliament Oren Hazan of the ruling Likud Party and several of his relatives have ties to a Bulgarian resort hotel connected to organized crime and to a casino in that hotel, an investigation by OCCRP partner Bivol reveals.
The Hotel Polyusi is located in the vicinity of Burgas’s Sunny Beach, Bulgaria’s most popular Black Sea resort, and the Casino Gold is on its first floor.
The hotel is owned and managed by men connected with two organized crime groups: the Security Insurance Company, called SIC; and Vasil Iliev Security (VIS) 2, whose past criminal activities are detailed in an extensive police report.
Bivol’s research shows that between 2008 and 2013, the first floor where the casino is located was owned by companies owned and managed by Hazan’s father, Yehiel Hazan, and other family members.
There are significant crossing ties between Hazan’s family and the casino owners.  For example, the Bulgarian representative of an Israeli firm owned by Oren Hazan is registered at the same address as the two companies which operated the Casino Gold and and iis listed on its gambling license.
Jakob Jerassy, who manages one of the gambling companies, is an Israeli-Bulgaria lobbyist who had several meetings in Tel Aviv with Yehiel Hazan, together with Israeli ministers and the Chief of the Bulgarian Police Angel Antonov.
 Last month, Hazan found himself at the center of a political scandal in Israel after the Israeli public TV Channel 2 claimed he was the manager of the Sunny Beach casino. The Israeli TV alleged that Hazan's casino provided prostitutes and hard drugs to its clients. He was suspended after the allegations surfaced.
The Israeli politician has denied the accusations and threatened to sue the journalists.
Hazan claimed that he never managed the casino, but only a hotel “where there was also a casino” and said he had nothing to do with the casino itself.
The links between the politician, the hotel and the casino lie buried in a chain of companies registered in offshore tax havens.
The hotel and land belong to a company named Polyusi Ltd. which, since 2014, has been owned by Moren Ltd., an offshore company registered in the Seychelles islands that is owned on paper by Anwar Munla, a Russian citizen.
Moren Ltd. bought the company in August 2014 from Valeri Krastev, a Bulgarian citizen listed as an alleged organized crime figure in the police report obtained by Bivol. The report also identifies one of the Polyusi directors, Slavyan Theofilov, as a member of SIC, the Bulgarian organized crime group, while Krastev is said to belong to the VIS criminal organization.
According to the report: Theofilov arrived in Burgas in 1995 to work for SIC with a man named Poly Pantev, who was later killed by a contract killer in Aruba on March 2001. Theofilov was involved in smuggling, thefts and money laundering according to the report.
Reporters from Bivol searched business archives and found that Theofilov had been connected to Moren Ltd. in the past. He sold shares he owned in a company named Universum Energy to Moren Ltd. and to Youlian Organdzhiev, a former board member of the modeling agency Visage, which is also associated with the SIC crime group.
The connections between Hazan and the Bulgarian enterprises are further complicated because the hotel and the casino are owned separately, and other members of Hazan’s family are involved.
The floor where the casino is situated was owned by Oren’s father, Yehiel Hazan, and his uncle Joseph Hazan.
In 2008, Polyusi Ltd. sold the first floor of the hotel in Sunny Beach for 325,000 Bulgarian levs (about US$ 187,000) to a company named Miranda Investment, wholly owned by a businessman named Bertie Sinbeti. But in 2013 Sinbeti transferred 49 percent of his shares to Joseph Hazan, who is Oren Hazan’s uncle.
Five years later, in May 2013, Miranda sold the property to another company, ATID LTD, which belongs to Joseph Hazan and Yehiel Hazan, the uncle and father of Oren Hazan. This time the deal was concluded for 625,000 levs (US$ 360,000).
Hazan’s father was also a former member of the Knesset and was convicted in the past for double voting.
A few months later, on Sept. 24, 2013, the hotel’s first floor floor changed hands again when Atid Ltd. sold it to M.H.Sh. for 640,000 levs (US$ 367,500). M.H.Sh is owned by another Israeli, Edna Hazan. Her relationship to the others is not known, but the company M.H.Sh. was registered just a few days prior to the purchase.
Edna Hazan did not keep the property for long, selling it two months later on Nov. 11, 2013, to C Media Group. She lost about US$ 20,000 on the deal.
The C Media Group is registered at the same address in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia as Sunny Beach Entertainment, the firm that owns the gambling license for the Casino Gold. Both companies are owned byKamchiya Beach Resort. Kamchiya is the sole owner of C Media and through another company owns 90 percent of Sunny Beach Entertainment; the final 10 percent belongs to Jerassy, the Israeli-Bulgarian lobbyist.
The Sofia address—22 Golden Horn St., 10th floor, Suite 26--is a popular one.
It is also the home of the Bulgarian representative of Achi Im Yozma, an Israeli company owned by Oren Hazan and his uncle, Joseph Hazan. According to the Israeli Registrar of Companies, Hazan's firm failed to pay its registration fees as required by law.
Others using the address include:
•           Miranda Investment, the first owner of the Casino Gold;
•           C Media Group, the casino’s 4th owner;
•           Kamchiya Beach Resort, owner of Sunny Beach Entertainment and the C Media Group;
•           Sunny Beach Entertainment, which operated the casino from 2012 to 2014;
•           Inmobiles, which has operated the casino since 2014.
The casino itself changed hands again on April 30, 2015, when C Media Group sold the property to Sagittarius Ltd. for 585,000 levs (US$ 338,000). Its new owner is Yulian Organdzhiev, the Visage modeling agency manager.
Sunny Beach Entertainment, which operated the Casino Gold until 2014, is also closely linked to Hazan’s family.
According to the State Commission on Gambling (SCG), the casino’s licensing history is complicated.
Back in 2012, the commission granted a five-year gambling permit to Sunny Beach Entertainment for the Casino Gold. In 2014, the National Revenue Agency told the commission the company hadn’t paid its taxes and the SCG suspended its license for six months. When Sunny Beach Entertainment still didn’t pay up, the commission revoked its license as of Feb. 10, 2015.
Sunny Beach Entertainment is managed and represented by Jerassi, the Bulgarian-Israeli lobbyist who also advocates the return of King Simeon Saxe-Coburg to Bulgaria. In the fall of 2014, after the company first lost its license, Jerassi was stabbed in Bulgaria’s second largest city of Plovdiv, an event reported only by Bivol journalist Mladen Dotchev.
The gambling commission next issued a license for gambling (but not a casino) on July 28, 2014 to the company Inmobles, which shares the 22 Golden Horn St. address with Sunny Beach Entertainment and Oren Hazan’s firm Ahi Im Yozma. Inmobles is managed by the Sofia lawyer Iviyan Simeonov Hristov, whose law office is also at 22 Golden Horn St. Bivol contacted the law office, but attorney Simeonov was not available for comment.
Jerassi and Hazan’s family share other interests. According to a report by the Israeli news outlet Haaretz, Jerassi and Yehiel Hazar met several times to discuss political matters.
Yehiel Hazan and Jerassy met in Sofia and Tel Aviv concerning Bulgarian workers in Israel. Jerassy also took a part in a meeting in May 2012, when the Bulgarian Police Commissioner Angel Antonov and his deputy, Nikolai Krushkov, visited Israel with the former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (now Israeli president), former Minister Silvan Shalom, and current minister Miri Regev.

 Threats against the site

Editors Note:
On June 12, the Israeli TV Channel 2 broadcast cited the investigation of Bivol in its report on Oren Hazan. Several hours later, Bivol, received a warning from outside of Bulgaria of a planned attack against the website’s team.

Russian crime boss quietly arrested in Phuket

PHUKET: A quiet arrest in a street in Rawai last month netted the head of a large-scale Russian organized crime syndicate, living in Phuket. crime, immigration, police, The Phuket News Friday 3 July 2015, 11:05AM (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Russian crime boss fugitive Dimitry Rodionov was arrested in this quiet street in Rawai, Phuket. Photo: Google MapsDimitry Rodionov, 38; was taken into custody at a house in Soi Samakkee 2 in the quiet area of Saiyuan, Rawai, at 1:20pm on June 10. His arrest at the time drew a public announcement from the Russian Embassy in Bangkok. Rodionov, a native of Vladivostok, was wanted in Russia on a range of charges and was detained by police in Thailand at the request of the Russian bureau of Interpol, Vladimir Sosnov, head of the consular department, reported to RIA Novosti on June 13. (See Novosti Phuketa report here.) But it wasn’t until a seemingly regular press conference in Bangkok this week that it became known that crime boss Rodionov was arrested in Phuket. Rodionov was presented to the press by Maj Gen Thamrong Saengwattanakul, commander of Immigration Police Division 3, on Tuesday (June 30) as one of six foreign fugitives arrested in Thailand. The other suspects presented included Russian woman Natallia Makian; German national Mario Wilhelm Schaefer; Taiwanese pair Chen Hung Hsun, 34, and Hsiao Min Chu, 48; Chinese national Wen Liping, 32. “Rodionov was wanted on an Interpol red notice and the Russian government had canceled his passport,” an officer at Interpol Thailand later confirmed to The Phuket News. Phuket Immigration Police received a warrant for Rodionov’s arrest on May 21. He was in custody less than three weeks later. “We are currently in the process of deporting Rodionov,” the Interpol officer confirmed. The officer declined to disclose any further information. According to Russian police, Rodionov was one of the leaders of an organized crime syndicate operating in Russia’s Far East and specializing in large-scale fraud and thefts. As reported by local media, members of the gang posed themselves as freight agents signing contracts on goods delivery with various businesses and then disappearing with the cargo. The gang included a special support unit with armed fighters experienced in firearms and trained in martial arts. It is believed that the group was involved in various grave crimes including extortion, armed robberies, vehicle thefts and more. All the group members were arrested in February 2012, with Rodionov being the only one to escape. In March 2014 an international arrest warrant was issued, but until this year police were unable to identify his location. – 

A Spanish probe into Russian mafia 'could change the narrative of Putin in the West'


One of Russia's largest organized-crime syndicates allegedly operated out of Spain for more than a decade with the help of close allies of Vladimir Putin, then the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, Bloomberg reports.
Prosecutors in Madrid have filed a 488-page petition to charge 27 people with money laundering and fraud in connection to the St. Petersburg's Tambov crime syndicate setting up shop in Spain in 1996.
Vladislav Reznik, currently the deputy head of the finance committee in Russia's lower house of parliament and a member of the Putin-aligned United Russia Party, faces charges for allegedly giving allies of the criminal organization's alleged leader, Gennady Petrov, positions in the Russian government in exchange for a share of the organization's assets.
"The criminal organization headed by Petrov managed to achieve a clear penetration of the state structures in [Russia], not only with the lawmaker Reznik but with several ministers," the Spanish prosecutors stated.
Reznik denies the accusations, insisting his relationship with Petrov is "purely social."
Petrov himself is unlikely to face a trial - he fled to Russia when his villa on the Spanish island of Majorca was raided by police in 2008, and Russia does not extradite its citizens.
Russian Gennadi Petrov (L) arrives at Palma's court accompanied by police officers during an operation against Russian mafia on the Spanish island of Mallorca June 14, 2008.
US officials briefed by Spanish prosecutor Jose Grinda in 2010 concluded that Putin runs a "virtual mafia" state which extends to Spain, where criminal networks have been established to do things the Kremlin can not.
The Russian president's connection to Spain dates back to the 1990's, when he allegedly took no less than 37 secret boat rides to meet with several well-known Russian mafia leaders living in southern Spain - all while he was the head of the FSB (the successor to the KGB)
Putin reportedly entered Spain illegally, bypassing Spanish passport control by entering through Gibraltar, according to the book "Putin's Kleptocracy" by Karen Dawisha.
"This Petrov probe could change the narrative of Putin in the West - from being a Stalinist tyrant defending the interests of his country to being a product of gangster Petersburg who united authorities with organized crime," Stanislav Belkovsky, a Kremlin adviser during Putin's first term who consults at Moscow's Institute for National Strategy, told Bloomberg.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2015 (SPIEF 2015) in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 19, 2015.
The network of Russian authorities with alleged ties to Petrov is vast: from former prime minister and current chairman of Gazprom Viktor Zubkov and his son-in-law, former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and longtime communications minister/Kremlin adviser Leonid Reiman.

Russian law-enforcement official, Nikolai Aulov - deputy of Viktor Ivanov, who runs the Federal Narcotics Service - was also one of Petrov's "most important" contacts in Moscow, according to the criminal complaint.

Putin Allies Aided Russian Mafia in Spain, Prosecutors Say

by Esteban DuarteHenry Meyer

Some of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, including the chairman of OAO Gazprom, a deputy premier and two former ministers, helped one of Russia’s largest criminal groups operate out of Spain for more than a decade, prosecutors in Madrid say.
Members of St. Petersburg’s Tambov crime syndicate moved into Spain in 1996, when Putin was deputy mayor of the former czarist capital, to launder proceeds from their illicit activities, Juan Carrau and Jose Grinda wrote in a petition to the Central Court on May 29, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.
The 488-page complaint, the product of a decade of investigations into the spread of Russian organized crime during the Putin era, portrays links between the criminal enterprise and top law-enforcement officials and policy makers in Moscow. The petition, based on thousands of wiretaps, bank transfers and property transactions, is a formal request to charge 27 people with money laundering, fraud and other crimes. Approval by a judge would clear the way for a trial, but Spain doesn’t try people in absentia.
The only Russian official facing possible charges is Vladislav Reznik, a member of Putin’s ruling United Russia party and the deputy head of the finance committee in the lower house of parliament. The complaint, earlier reported by Spain’s El Mundo and ABC newspapers, says Reznik helped the alleged leader of the enterprise, Gennady Petrov, get his associates appointed to key posts in Russia in exchange for assets in Spain. Prosecutors are seeking to confiscate a property they say Reznik owns on the resort island of Majorca.
‘Clear Penetration’
“The criminal organization headed by Petrov managed to achieve a clear penetration of the state structures in his country, not only with the lawmaker Reznik but with several ministers,” the prosecutors say in the petition.
Putin himself is mentioned by name three times in the document, including in a partial transcript of a call between two alleged Tambov operatives in 2007. The men are discussing an issue with a hotel in the Alicante region and one refers to a house that he says Putin owns in nearby Torrevieja.
Putin himself is mentioned by name three times in the document
 “This is total nonsense,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said of the Spanish allegations. “It’s beyond the realm of reason.”
Reznik, in an interview in Moscow, denied any wrongdoing. He said his relationship with Petrov is “purely social” and that he would welcome the opportunity to travel to Spain and clear his name if a trial takes place.
Bank Rossiya
While accusations of graft are not uncommon in Russia, which is tied with Nigeria in Transparency International’s corruption perception ranking, few investigations have identified so many senior officials by name. The highest-ranking person publicly sanctioned under the U.S. Magnitsky Act, enacted in 2012 to punish Russians deemed complicit in the prison death of an accountant who alleged large-scale theft by officials, is a deputy general prosecutor.
Petrov was an early shareholder in Bank Rossiya, the St. Petersburg lender set up by some of Putin’s oldest allies and the first company sanctioned by the U.S. after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Spanish police arrested Petrov during a raid on his Majorca villa in 2008. He was later allowed to travel to Russia but never returned. Russia doesn’t allow the extradition of its citizens.
A lawyer for Petrov, Roberto Mazorriaga, said by e-mail that prosecutors haven’t provided any evidence to support their allegations.
‘Mafia’ State
Investigators in Spain have been at the vanguard of the fight against Russian organized crime, warning fellow NATO members for years of the dangers posed by what they call state-sanctioned syndicates, an issue that’s become more acute since the conflict in Ukraine rekindled Cold War distrust.
"This is total nonsense. It’s beyond the realm of reason"
After a briefing by Grinda, one of the prosecutors, in Madrid in 2010, U.S. officials concluded that Putin runs a “virtual mafia” state where the activities of criminal networks are indistinguishable from those of the government, according to a classifiedcable from the U.S. embassy in the Spanish capital that was published by WikiLeaks.
Russian security services control criminal groups and use them to do things the government “cannot acceptably do,” Grinda was cited as telling U.S. officials at the time. One mafia leader in Spain was actually a Russian intelligence officer tasked with “selling weapons to the Kurds to destabilize Turkey,” the embassy said in the cable.
Litvinenko Murder
A lawyer for the widow of dissident Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died of radioactive poisoning in London in 2006, in January accused senior officials in Moscow of ordering Litvinenko’s death in part to prevent him from helping Spain root out Russian criminal networks.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied having anything to do with Litvinenko’s murder. In March, Putin awarded a medal to the chief suspect in the ongoing U.K. probe, fellow KGB veteran Andrei Lugovoi, who’s now a member of parliament, for “services to the fatherland.”
Petrov used Spain as a base to carry out criminal activities mainly in Russia, including murder, arms trafficking, drug smuggling, extortion and fraud, the prosecutors say, repeating some of the accusations that led to his 2008 arrest. Political and judicial contacts in Russia offered him help, including advice on his personal safety; inside information about business dealings; the threat posed by other criminal groups; planned actions against organized crime; and the amount of influence he needed to exert, they say.
Gazprom, Defense
His network in Moscow, according to the document, includes Viktor Zubkov, the chairman of gas exporter Gazprom who was prime minister and first deputy premier from 2007 to 2012, and Zubkov’s son-in-law, former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.
Serdyukov “does business with Petrov” and Zubkov, who worked for Putin in the St. Petersburg government in the early 1990s, “favored Petrov’s organization with some political decisions,” the prosecutors say, without elaborating. Serdyukov’s lawyer, Genrikh Padva, declined to comment and Zubkov didn’t respond to a request for comment sent through Gazprom’s press service. Neither man is facing indictment.
Other officials mentioned as being “directly related” to Petrov’s group include Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and Alexander Bastrykin, who runs the powerful Investigative Committee that oversees major criminal inquiries. Bastrykin and Putin both earned their law degrees from Leningrad State University in 1975. Kozak graduated from the same law school a decade later and worked in City Hall at the same time as Putin.
Post-Soviet Chaos
Kozak -- about whom no detail is provided in the complaint -- said he only knows of Petrov through media reports, according to his spokesman, Ilya Djous. Bastrykin’s committee said in a statement that it didn’t have any information corroborating the reported information of Spanish prosecutors.
Another senior Russian official at the time, Leonid Reiman, who was communications minister and a Kremlin adviser from 1999 to 2010, was a business partner of Petrov’s, the prosecutors say. Reiman has “no ties” to Petrov, OAO Angstrem, a technology company in Moscow that Reiman is chairman of, said by e-mail.
Petrov, 67, was an influential figure in St. Petersburg during the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and knew many of the city’s political elite, including Zubkov, Bastrykin and Kozak, two people who knew him at the time said on condition of anonymity.
78 Calls
Petrov proved to be influential in Moscow under President Putin, too, the Spanish prosecutors say. When Putin created the Investigative Committee as a counterweight to the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2007, Petrov helped secure Bastrykin’s appointment as its first chairman, they say, citing wire taps of calls between Petrov and one of Bastrykin’s future deputies.
Another law-enforcement official, Nikolai Aulov, is “one of the most important persons for Petrov” in Russia, according to the document. Aulov is a deputy of Viktor Ivanov, who runs the Federal Narcotics Service and is a former KGB colleague of Putin’s in Leningrad and later St. Petersburg.
Investigators logged 78 phone calls between Aulov and Petrov. In March 2008, according to the complaint, Petrov asked an associate to get Aulov to pressure Russia’s new customs chief to facilitate port shipments for his group.
The drug agency’s press service referred requests for comment from Aulov and Ivanov to an interview Ivanov gave to the Kommersant newspaper this month. In it, Ivanov said he doesn’t know what “dirty political games” the Spanish are playing because Aulov helped bust a criminal gang led by Petrov in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s.
“This Petrov probe could change the narrative of Putin in the West -- from being a Stalinist tyrant defending the interests of his country to being a product of gangster Petersburg who united authorities with organized crime,” said Stanislav Belkovsky, a Kremlin adviser during Putin’s first term who consults at Moscow’s Institute for National Strategy.