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The last emperor

In a sad week for erotic cinema, Nacho Vidal is accused of taking part in a money-laundering racket

Boris Izaguirre

I number the renowned porn actor Nacho Vidal among my friends, and it isn't every day you see a friend's name on the list of people caught up in a giant police dragnet. It isn't every day you see how easy it is to keep a vast money-laundering operation going for years. Only when it comes to light do you see how easy it can be to hide six million euros in cash, in multicolored notes: 50, 100, 200 and 500. Cash, and also weapons, diamonds and slaves.

Though he does not form part of the hardcore of the conspiracy, it is sad to see Nacho Vidal implicated in Operation Emperor. Many a good time have I shared with him, ever since I presented a book on his life - which, indeed, explains how porn saved him from juvenile delinquency. Nor is it particularly consoling to remember him at the presentation of his perfume, called 25, the bottle being about that length in centimeters, a glass reproduction of his celebrated member. Not very many people were there that night in December, except Rossy de Palma and myself, to accompany him as he exhibited "the result of the effort of many years, a perfume that identifies me," as he put it, more than glad to show us how the fragrance is applied. The bottle sits now, still practically virgin, in the living room at home. Many who see it smile and accept it as a mere phallic sculpture like any other.

Today these memories are jumbled with the bad jokes you hear about his implication in the racket, his filmography and his physical measurements. Yet what is really amazing about this operation is not so much its size, as the length of time it remained active and scot-free. Perhaps because it was sheltered, not only by some influential people now known to be implicated, but by the Latin culture of money. When we see money moving around, it's sexy; we don't even want to ask where it comes from or where it's going. Or who it is going to affect, or hurt or destroy in its wanderings. In a sinister, anonymous industrial park where the law never used to venture, suddenly some heroic detectives show up, and reveal to the public that the gallery owner and man of the world, Mr Gao Ping, is a new model villain for future Bond films: an Oriental, good-looking and taller than average, a little over 40, who extorts and accumulates piles of money in his faux-Tudor mansion on the outskirts of Madrid.

When we see money moving around, it's sexy; we don't even want to ask where it comes from or where it's going"

Gao Ping said on one occasion that "contemporary art is like beer: everyone likes it." And it is ironic, or perhaps a sign of our times, that the structure of patronage and exhibition of Spanish art in China, and of Chinese work in Spain, is found to be built upon a network of money laundering whose staple was tacky costume jewelry, handbags, kitsch statuettes and cheap lingerie, the useless, gaudy stuff you find in Chinese shops. As useless and as gaudy as their authentic, expensive versions. He bounced like a ping-pong ball between these two worlds. Even a cultural institution such as Valencia's IVAM was his client. Gao Ping looks like the ideal son-in-law, for a family of multi-racial leanings. In fact, he is one of the first villains to be caught in this age of impunity, a man who turns an impeccable face to the world and has the back room cluttered with safes full of large-denomination notes.

Sorrow upon sorrow, Sylvia Kristel has died. A malign star seems to hang over erotic cinema. In our youth, she contributed to the sexual liberation of men and women alike. Now she leaves a world where sex is as massive, and as confused in origin, as the art objects in top auction houses, or the kitsch objects in Chinese shops.

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