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#Cocaine caravans immobilised: 12 arrests in big bust against drug traffickers in the Canary Islands

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A large-scale drug trafficking organi\ation linked to Colombian and Peruvian cartels was dismantled in Spain and Colombia in an international law enforcement operation. Europol supported the two-year-long investigation, led by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) in close collaboration with the National Police of Colombia and the US DEA. 

In total 11 Spanish nationals were arrested in Tenerife (Spain) and a Colombian national – in Cali (Colombia) – is currently awaiting extradition to Spain. €2 million in assets have been seized so far. The investigation was triggered by information on large cash movements in Tenerife, money laundering-related intelligence shared via international co-operation.

Caravans with cocaine were travelling to the Canary Islands 

The Spanish branch of the network was distributing the cocaine delivered in bulk from South America. The suspects concealed the drugs in caravans travelling between the Canary Islands. A seizure of 60kg of cocaine hidden in a mobile home was made during one of these transfers. To cover up their criminal activities, the suspects used legal businesses. The criminal networks owned vehicle dealerships, auto repair shops and managed long-term caravan parks. These legal businesses provided the criminals with cover to transport the vehicles and launder money. The intermediary, a Colombian living in Cali oversaw the trafficking from South America to Spain.

Cocaine’s new route

One part of the investigation focused on a Ghanaian citizen. This allowed the investigators to gather evidence on the “African route” of cocaine. This emerging transit route is used by South American drug cartels to send large shipments to Europe. The drugs travel through the west coast of Africa, where they are stored before going to Spanish coasts. Africa has a growing role as a trafficking and transit area, a new trend identified in the 2019 EU Drug Markets Report by Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Tracing money movements to catch drug traffickers

Europol supported the investigation from its very beginning by assisting the coordination of the operational activities between the countries involved and by facilitating the information exchange and operational analysis. Europol also provided technical and analytical support and facilitated the exchange of judicial evidence collected during the house searched carried out in Colombia.

On the action day, Europol deployed two experts on the field to cross-check operational information in real-time and provide technical support on the spot.

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Ireland

Russian - Irish Business Council launches an inquiry into Russian businessman

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The Russian Irish Business Council has launched a broad inquiry into alleged illegal activities of Russian businessman Mr. Sergey Govyadin and his close associate Mr. Ildar Samiyev.

The Council, unifying companies working in the UK, EU and Russia, have sent a letter to HSBC and a number of other financial institutions in the UK requesting information the banks might have about Mr. Sergey Govyadin. It alleges that both he and Mr. Samiyev were obviously involved in money laundering and other illegal purposes via the UK legal system and the UK offices of HSBC. The Council asks to investigate possible acts of fraud by Mr. Govyadin and Mr. Samiyev.  This information was also sent to the US Internal Revenue Service for consideration and possible feedback due to its criminal background. There are indications that both are using the US monetary mechanisms for their illegal activities. Full copies of these letters can be read at the foot of this article.

The story of Sergey Govyadin has much in common with other infamous "new riches" from Eastern Europe who have a profound criminal portfolio.

Sergey Govyadin

Sergey Govyadin

Visibly a prosperous real estate businessman and developer, Sergey Govyadin is alleged in Russian media as being involved in many criminal cases related to fraud and other criminal incidents on selling elite property and apartments in luxurious districts in Moscow. Newspapers in Russia call Mr. Govyadin a "shadow influencer" alleging corrupt connections with a number of police authorities.

Togather with Ildar Samiyev, Mr. Govyadin has long been featured in the Russian criminal chronicle as a scandalous person, primarily found in fraudulent deals with private property and luxe apartments in fabulous districts in Moscow and in its suburbs. Back in 2015, Govyadin was “crowned” as a “successful millionaire” by tabloid press. By that time he was married to the beauty pageant - Miss Russia.  However, his name remains on the lists of fraudsters and corrupt officials published from time to time by the media.

According to them, Govyadin and Samiev denigrate other people who are their partners, in order to justify their allegedly illegal transactions. In Moscow, a high-profile trial has long been underway in the case of developer Albert Khudoyan, whom Govyadin and Samiev accused of fraud and deception. As a result, the businessman was arrested. His case became additionally known due to violations on the part of the investigation. Some corrupt law enforcement officials tried to profit from his arrest according to the media.

Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov has already defended Khudoyan. However, the process against him continues. Khudoyan suffers from heart disease.

The alleged illegal activities of Govyadin and Samiyev have a long history.

Ildar Samiyev

Ildar Samiyev

For example, together with Ildar Samiev, Govyadin is alleged to have taken part in the withdrawal of funds from Russian Svyaz Bank. He is alleged to have been involved in fraud with apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex in Khamovniki district of Moscow, as well as a number of other stories.

For example, back in 2014, Optima property management LLC, owned by Govyadin, took $ 95 million loan from the state-owned Svyaz Bank and used the funds to purchase 22 apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex under construction in Khamovniki. This company was controlled by Sergey Govyadin and Ildar Samiev through a chain of companies, namely the Russian LLC "Eurofinance" and the English company Mansfiled Executive Limited (from 25 to 50 percent of Mansfiled Executive Limited belongs to Govyadin, according to the Endole database). At the same time, the price of apartments under the deal was inflated, which allowed to actually withdraw more than a billion rubles from the state Bank.

The residential complex was constructed in 2016. Probably, because of the extremely high price, the purchased apartments remain on the balance sheet of Optima property management, since it is impossible to sell them at such a high price. Optima properties has not yet returned the debt to the Bank, and in 2018 Svyaz Bank filed a lawsuit to recover $ 95 million from Optima property management, but failed. As a result, the state, which is the owner of Svyaz Bank, suffered, having completed its rehabilitation in 2011. The debtor has apartments on the balance sheet that are unlikely to cost more than 50 percent of the debt amount, and more than 1 billion rubles settled on the accounts of the developer Knightsbridge, controlled by Govyadin.

It is obvious that the request of the Russian Irish Business Clouncilwill be an occasion for more close and detailed attention to the illegal activities of Govyadin & Co. British and American financial institutions will hopefully be held accountable of those international speculators.

Source information

HSBC letter

 

 

USA tax letter

 

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Crime

Victims' Rights: Commissioner Reynders launches new platform and presents first European Commission's Co-ordinator for victims' rights

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At a high-level videoconference on 22 September, co-hosted with the German Presidency, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders inaugurated the new Victims' Rights Platform – an important deliverable following the adoption of the first EU Strategy on Victims' Rights earlier this year.

The new platform, which will meet annually and on an ad-hoc basis when necessary, will serve as an important forum for discussions on victims' rights with all relevant actors. These include the European Network on Victims' Rights, the EU Network of national contact points for compensation, the EU Counter–Terrorism Coordinator, Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and civil society.

In addition to these organizations, who will also participate this afternoon, the event will gather EU ministers of justice and members of the European Parliament. At the conference, Commissioner Reynders will also introduce the Commission's newly appointed Coordinator for Victims' Rights Katarzyna Janicka-Pawlowska.

Ahead of the event, Commissioner Reynders said: “Today is an important moment in our work to protect victims' rights in the European Union. With a new EU-wide Victims' Rights Platform and a new Coordinator for Victims' Rights, we are showing clear commitment to carry this work on, and only a few months after the Commission presented the first EU strategy in this area. I welcome the support of the German Presidency as well as our stakeholders, and I look forward to our cooperation going forward. On 24 June 2020, the Commission adopted the first ever EU Strategy on Victims' Rights. The primary goal is to ensure that all victims of crime can rely on their rights no matter where in the European Union and no matter in what circumstances the crime happened."

More information on the strategy is available here.

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Law

BBC Hardtalk clash highlights concerns over EU’s Romanian Prosecutor Laura Kovesi

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BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur is known for his robust interview style and his command of any subject he chooses to tackle. Observers in Bucharest, Brussels and across Europe watched with interest as he questioned Laura Kovesi, the European Union’s Chief Prosecutor, one year into her tenure in this new role. It seems widely acknowledged that she did not stand up well to his sharp interrogation when he quizzed her on her controversial track record in Romania.

The interview, which took place over video-conference with Kovesi on screen from her Luxembourg base, questioned whether Ms Kovesi had been successful in her previous role at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) in Romania, but the biggest sting was delivered when Sackur accused Kovesi of having “pushed the envelope” in terms of the legality of her Romanian investigations.

Sackur said to Kovesi: “People across Europe are going to be interested in how you're going to do the job and it is indeed notable that you had a certain reputation in Romania for let's say pushing the envelope in terms of investigative practice. You, it seems, were prepared to use the intelligence services in a covert fashion, to dig dirt on some of the suspects that you were going after and in the Romanian constitutional court some of your methods were called into question. Do you regret some of the methods you used?”

In fairness to Ms Kovesi it should be noted that she was not alone at the DNA. Other DNA prosecutors such as Nicolae Marin have also faced such allegations that would amount to “pushing the envelope”, to use Sackur’s phrase.  The difference, perhaps, is that Marin did not lose his job at the DNA, but rather remained and gained more power, remaining a part of the structure that the international community has referred to as Romania’s “parallel state” or “Securitate 2.0”.

Kovesi responded: “No it’s not about the methods, it's about working arrangements that we had but at that moment, based on the legislation, we received information from the secret services and we used that information to open the cases. But it's important to say and to clarify that our investigations were made by the prosecutors and by police officers and no one from the officials of the Secret Service worked on our cases - only the prosecutors, police officers.”

Sackur was characteristically determined to press  Kovesi further, responding: “I'll be honest with you - I was very struck by a former Romanian Prime Minister Mr Tariceanu saying that under your watch the anti-corruption agency had not respected legal frameworks, had become corrupt themselves and had become a part of the political fight in Romania. Some critics called you a part of Securitate 2.0 because of your cooperation with the security services. Again I put it to you that if you bring those methods to your Europe-wide prosecutor role, you're going to make many people very unhappy?”

Kovesi answered: “All our cases that we worked on in Romania were checked and verified in the courts. So at the European level we will work according to the legislation as I did in Romania all the time and everything that the prosecutors did in the cases were checked in the court by judges.”

As ever, Sackur was unrelenting on his point, firing back: “But with respect, the constitutional court in January 2019 concluded that you had created a parallel justice system existing outside the rules imposed by Romania's constitution!”

Kovesi answered: “There is not any decision of the constitutional court saying that I created a parallel state in Romania.” One has to assume that all of the Brussels elite took a collective sharp intake of breath that an EU Prosecutor even needed to utter such a statement.

Sackur did not back down, going on to say: “Well I am reading from one of their rulings of January 2019. Now I know that ultimately charges against you were dropped but nonetheless it's a very serious allegation that you created a parallel justice system. The question really is do you believe that in prosecuting corruption and fraud the ends justify the means?”

Kovesi answered: “If you read that decision based on which the constitutional court absolved me I should say that I made a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights and in this year in May the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights said that in that case my rights were broken so I don't know which kind of decision you call it but I can say that in my entire activity I respected all the time the constitution I respected the procedural Criminal Code and all the national law.”

Sackur continued: “But when it comes to winning… I'm just asking you a simple question now… when it comes to rooting out corruption, do you believe as an aggressive prosecutor that the ends do justify the means?”

Kovesi then responded: “No, all the time in my activity I respected the law and this is the only principle that I will take into consideration and we should take into consideration all the time, to respect the law.”

This episode of Hardtalk was one of the most fascinating discussions on the show in recent times. One European Parliament insider commented: “It is somewhat bizarre that we are in this situation. There are those who feel that Romania joined the EU far too soon, that the country is sadly a long way off reaching any kind of European standard in terms of rule of law. Yet here we are with a European Prosecutor from Romania sitting in Luxembourg, who as Stephen Sackur said, some critics called part of Securitate 2.0 because of her alleged cooperation with the security services.”

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