Spanish police arrest 60 in raids on Chinese mob

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 6:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 8:24pm

Spanish police arrested 60 people in raids on Chinese mobsters and accomplices, including a Spanish porn star, suspected of laundering money from prostitution and extortion, authorities said on Tuesday.

Hundreds of officers were carrying out raids in Madrid and Barcelona with warrants to arrest 108 people and search 120 properties on money-laundering and tax-dodging charges, an official in the National Court told reporters.

“The national police is carrying out a major operation against money-laundering and other crimes linked to criminal networks of Chinese origin in various provinces of Spain,” the government said in a separate statement.

“About 60 people have already been detained and the arrests and searches are continuing,” involving some 300 police officers, the interior ministry statement said on Tuesday morning, promising more details later.

The National Court, which ran a two-year investigation leading to Tuesday’s raids, said the gang channelled money from rackets involving prostitution and extortion to tax havens with the help of Spanish and Israeli intermediaries.

The network also smuggled cash to China by train and car and used front companies such as karaoke bars and restaurants, the court official said. The authorities did not say how much money was involved.

Among those arrested was Nacho Vidal, an international porn star credited in titles such as Sexcapades and The Sexual Messiah 2.

He ran a company that was suspected of taking part in the money-laundering, said the court official, who asked not to be named.

The Internet Movie Database describes him as “one of the most popular and hard-working men on the hardcore scene”.

The court official named another of those arrested as Jose Borras, a local councillor in Fuenlabrada, southern Madrid. The district is home to the Cobo Calleja trading estate, considered the biggest Chinese wholesale hub in Europe.

Apart from those two Spaniards and a handful of others, most of those arrested were Chinese, the court said.

Spanish media published images of police carrying out searches among the vast warehouses of Chinese businesses in Cobo Calleja.

It is known as a source of cheap goods imported from China, selling shoes, clothes, jewellery and other wholesale goods to Spanish businesses as well as distributing them across Europe.

The court source said Cobo Calleja was the “nucleus” of the money-laundering network.

The investigation leading to Tuesday’s arrests was the Spanish courts’ biggest money-laundering crackdown yet, it said.

The town hall in Fuenlabrada has said that Chinese firms in the industrial zone officially do some 870 million euros’ (US$1.1 billion) worth of trade a year. Of the 800 businesses there, it said 377 were Chinese-run, employing 3,000 of the total 10,000 people working in the area.