SPAIN

Operation Emperor

Spain raids Chinese mob, arrests 80

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 8:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Spanish police arrested 80 people in raids on Chinese mobsters and accomplices, including a Spanish porn star, suspected of illegally laundering hundreds of thousands of euros, authorities said on Tuesday.

Police in Operation Emperor also seized six million euros (US$7.8 million) in cash in hundreds of raids across the country, junior security minister Ignacio Ulloa told reporters.

Top anti-corruption prosecutor Antonio Salinas told reporters the network laundered between 200,000 and 300,000 euros a year, dodging taxes, bribing officials and forging documents.

He said the racket was made up of traders who sold contraband goods in Spain, laundered the money and transferred it to China.

“It is a criminal organisation led by Chinese people who laundered money,” Salinas said.

“They import all kinds of merchandise which dodges the Spanish authorities and is distributed throughout our territory, and they send the money illegally earned to China,” paying bribes and forging documents on the way, he said.

The interior ministry said in a statement it was a “major operation against money-laundering and other crimes linked to criminal networks of Chinese origin in various provinces of Spain”.

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

The network also smuggled cash bound for China by train and car and used front companies such as karaoke bars and restaurants, said a court official who asked not to be named.

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

He ran a company suspected of taking part in the money-laundering, said the court official.

The Internet Movie Database describes Vidal 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 in 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.