CORRUPT LOCAL POLITICS

Mayor waived taxes for Russian mafia boss in return for luxury trips

Lloret de Mar resort chief Xavier Crespo may be indicted alongside his second in command

Lloret de Mar -
Xavier Crespo.
Xavier Crespo.PERE DURAN

Andrey Borisovich Petrov did everything that the mayor of Lloret de Mar told him to, and more. According to the High Court judge investigating the case, Petrov -- the alleged boss of a Russian mafia operating out of the Costa Brava -- sponsored the local soccer and hockey teams between 2007 and 2010, and paid in cash for a luxury trip to Russia for then-mayor Xavier Crespo, his wife and one of their children. Once there, Crespo and his family enjoyed helicopter rides, expensive meals and free shows.

In exchange, Crespo pardoned 133,000 euros in municipal taxes that Petrov should have paid for his building activities, and changed local ordinances to allow the mob chief to erect a shopping center inside the old bullring, where a sports complex had originally been planned. Investigators also suspect that part of the club sponsorship money may have gone into the pockets of Crespo and his aides.

High Court Judge Eloy Velasco is asking the regional High Court of Catalonia to indict Crespo on charges of bribery and corruption. Because he is a regional deputy, he enjoys a degree of parliamentary immunity and can only be tried by a High Court. Crespo's deputy mayor, Josep Valls, has already been indicted in connection with the case.

During the February 2008 trip to Russia, Petrov introduced Crespo to Viktor Kanaikin and Sergei Nalinov, "the real owners" of Diagnostics Development Company (DDC) - the front that the mafia boss allegedly used to launder money in Lloret de Mar. Kanaikin and Nalinov were also "leaders" of the international money laundering scheme, according to Judge Velasco's report.

Crespo pardoned 133,000 euros in municipal taxes that Petrov should have paid for his building activities

Petrov had photographs of the trip in his computer, which was seized by Civil Guard officers following his arrest on January 25. Also along for the ride was Pilar Gimeno, an architect who worked for Petrov's companies and who is in preventive custody. Gimeno acted as the go-between that greased relations between Lloret town hall and the mafia ring; she is also "a close personal friend" of Crespo's, writes the judge in his report.

It was allegedly Crespo's idea for Petrov to sponsor the local sports teams. In 2003, the mayor stepped down as president of the hockey club, which his family has always had ties to: his wife Guadalupe Oliva is the vice-president, his two children are team players, and his friend Joan Perarnau was until this week the new club president. Perarnau has since been charged with bribery. Petrov spent 270,000 euros on sponsorships for both clubs, plus an additional 24,000 euros to pay for new locker rooms.

The judge believes that the Russian boss "was forced" to accept these sponsorships because it was the only way to get the town to change zoning laws involving the old bullring. The changes were approved by the council in April with the votes of CiU nationalists and PP conservatives. The government team called the shopping center project "of public interest," while the opposition complained about "favorable treatment" for DDC.

There was a second trip to Russia in which Crespo traveled in the company of Romà Codina, one of his councilors, who has since become the new mayor of the popular seaside resort.

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