OPERATION EMPEROR

Chinese money-laundering operation “distorted Spanish economy”

Interior minister predicts more arrests on top of 83 already detained Police recoup more than 11 million in cash, plus jewels and artworks

The Chinese mafia-linked money-laundering ring smashed on Tuesday “distorted the functioning of our economy,” said the director general of police, Ignacio Cosidó, in a press conference Wednesday.

Following up on Tuesday’s raids in Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga, described by Interior Minister Jorge Fernández as the culmination of “the biggest police operation in Spain’s history,” a further slew of arrests brought the number of detainees to 83.

The network is believed to have defrauded up to 1.2 billion euros. Authorities have so far recovered 11.6 million in cash, as well as jewels, works of art and vehicles. Fernández said there would be more arrests, including at least one “well-known name.”

All of the people thus far detained in the operation, including the porn actor Nacho Vidal and a the Socialist security chief in the Madrid satellite town of Fuenlabrada, José Borrás, were processed by the courts on Wednesday with bails set at between 40,000 and 60,000 euros.

Of the people so far rounded up by police, 58 are Chinese, 17 Spanish and eight are of other nationalities. The final total is expected to rise to 110, with 17 other suspects being sought in countries including Italy, Andorra and Germany.

The alleged mastermind, Gao Ping, was detained in the initial swoop. The Chinese businessman is well known in the art world and in circles dedicated to promoting Chinese-Spanish cooperation. It is thought that Gao and eight other ranking members of the ring controlled three mafia clans that operated together in the money-laundering operation.

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