OPERATION EMPEROR

Judge summons businessmen and three of king’s cousins in Emperor case

Subpoenas arise from massive money-laundering probe centered on activities of Chinese art dealer Gao Ping

Agencies

The judge investigating an alleged multi-million-euro money-laundering ring headed by a Chinese businessman issued subpoenas on Monday for a host of prominent citizens, including a distant cousin to the Royal Family, relating to alleged use of the organization to divert funds.

Among those summoned to testify as targeted suspects in the case are builders Antonio Banús Ferré and Enrique Ortega Cedrón, who have acknowledged having Swiss bank accounts. María Margarita Borbón dos Sicilias Lubomirska, her sister María Inmaculada and her niece María Illa García de Sáez Borbón dos Sicilias – all distant cousins to King Juan Carlos – have also been subpoenaed.

The five were scheduled to appear before High Court Judge Fernando Andreu later on Monday.

Andreu also subpoenaed businessmen José Velasco Meseguer and Santiago Calle Quirós, real estate magnate José Antonio Fernando Gil González, and former Banesto board member Enrique Lasarte Pérez, who are scheduled to testify on Wednesday.

The witnesses have been targeted in the so-called Operation Emperor case in which prosecutors alleged that Chinese art dealer Gao Ping and his associates ran a highly lucrative money-laundering ring using an import business to illegally ship cash to China.

Gao was ordered to be held in custody last April after prosecutors alleged that he was a flight risk.

Some 90 people were initially arrested last October in what authorities said was the biggest money-laundering operation in Spanish history. Gao was the head of an alleged gang of Chinese and Spanish businessmen who laundered between 200 million and 300 million euros annually, the funds disguised through import/export dealings, prosecutors said.

Following his arrest, Gao had to be released on a legal technicality due to the fact that he wasn’t taken before a judge within the required 72 hours as prescribed by law. Because there were so many defendants scheduled to appear for their initial hearing, Judge Andreu opted to place Gao in police custody – and not under the court’s jurisdiction – in order to keep the deadline from running out.

However, his maneuver was overruled by a higher judges’ panel and Gao and some 11 other co-defendants had to be released before being detained again in April.