The first deputy mayor of Lloret de Mar, a popular resort town on the Catalan coast, was arrested Tuesday morning as part of an investigation into a money laundering scheme led by a Russian mafia.
Josep Valls, who is also the president of the local soccer club, was in charge of city planning between 2003 and 2011, when the criminal activities are believed to have taken place.
Operation Clotilde is investigating whether the sponsorship of the Lloret soccer and hockey clubs by Andrei Petrov, an alleged mafia boss who lives there, was in fact undercover payment for favorable treatment on city-planning issues. The sponsorship money allegedly made its way into the pockets of the aides to then-mayor Xavier Crespo, including Valls. Crespo himself has not yet been charged with any crimes.
Petrov, a Russian national, told a judge at Spain’s High Court on Monday that he began sponsoring the city’s sports clubs after securing management rights to 35 percent of a shopping center built inside the former bullring. The remaining 65 percent was controlled by the city.
The current mayor of Lloret, Romà Codina, said that the sponsorship consisted of 30,000 euros a year for three years.
“If it’s about 56 million euros in laundered money, a 30,000-euro sponsorship for the soccer club seems a little unlikely,” he added.
The mafia ring is accused of using a company called DDC to launder at least 56 million euros from illegal activities through investments in all types of businesses, from restaurants to gas stations or real estate agencies.
Sources familiar with the case said that the mafia boss Petrov got preferential treatment from local authorities, who condoned the payment of 133,500 euros in taxes he would normally owe for the shopping center project, by declaring the former bullring a landmark of public interest.