Tales of Judge Balthazar Garson

Who and why is fabricating the "sensational cases" against Russians in Spain? How did the ambitions of Spanish judge, who was discharged for suspected corruption, nearly sink Kalunga Shipping Company?

Vladimir Kokorev is a doctor of historical sciences, whose studies of the African region are still used as manuals for students of Russian universities. He used to be a Soviet diplomat and a personal interpreter of Spanish for Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko. When the USSR collapsed, he immigrated to Spain, where he later became a successful businessman.

A bit more than one year ago, the Spanish press published absurd insinuations claiming that Kokorev had robbed the president of Equatorial Guinea or laundered $26.4 million on his behalf in Spain. As Profile magazine wrote, "Vladimir Kokorev gave no reason to suspect him of having any ties with the criminal world. His reputation suffers quite unreasonably." 

The story started, when two Spanish newspapers (El Mundo and El Pais) published virtually identical materials in late September 2009 about the business activities of Kalunga Shipping Company, which is owned by Vladimir Kokorev. In particular, they wrote that «spouses Julia and Vladimir Kokorevs were called by the Spanish public prosecutor to testify on the case of suspected illegal cash flow through their bank accounts. The aforementioned newspapers are the most popular ones in Spain, and their positions on any issue coincide very rarely. Probably, this very coincidence of the viewpoints of two «unfriendly» Spanish newspapers convinced some Russian periodicals to publish the articles containing unverified information, which later appeared false. Then the newspapers were full of such headlines as "Russian couple stole $26.4 million from the president of Equatorial Guinea."

Former diplomat Kokorev has built his business from the zero point. At first he traded frozen fish and then timber. Some time later, using his ties from the time of his diplomatic work, he established a company for ship freight and service, which employed some three hundred seamen, who emigrated from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia as they got unemployed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They were very surprised, when their employer company was referred to by the Spanish press as "non-existent', and the vessels, on which they carried cargoes for several years and were paid the legal wages, were called as the «Flying Dutchmen». In late December 2009, they wrote the Open Letter of Kalunga Seamen to protect V. B. Kokorev and his family members, which was signed by 244 seamen sailing on the Kalunga managed vessels from Sevastopol, Kherson, Nikolaev, Kerch, Bobruisk, Brody, Borisov, Pervomaisk, Klaipeda, and Tallinn.

Meanwhile, the attempt to fabricate a "case" against Vladimir Kokorev through the Spanish press is getting more and more new details.

Smart Garson for Banker Botin.

It happened so that in 2004, like many other large businessmen, who hold accounts with American banks, Vladimir Kokorev already passed through the investigation of the public prosecutor. This investigation was initiated by US authorities, which (in terms of the so-called Patriotic Act following September 11, 2001) investigated the whole national banking system, through which the international settlements were carried out. At that time, the Spanish law-enforcement authorities had no claims with respect to the "Guinean" payments of Kalunga. This very fact proves that the Kokorev’s shipping company is not a ghost company, which is created to launder the money of the Guinean president, but a serious player operating for a long time on the market. However, for the Spanish mass media, this information did not serve the evidence of the pure reputation of Kalunga but vice versa.

The following facts are still more interesting. It appears that the information about the investigation supposedly carried out in Spain against the Russian businessman was published in press at the moment, when the investigation was started with respect to the business of Spanish banker Emilio Botin. And this investigation was carried out by famous judge Balthazar Garson, who was recently discharged from the office after the initiation of three criminal cases against him, with the most serious one of them related to accusations of corruption and caused by the fact that Garson terminated one of the criminal proceedings against the aforementioned banker on the allegation of the «sponsorship aid » (in the amount of 300 thousand US dollars).

Garson became widely famous in 1998, when he declared the accusations for violation of the human rights against former Chilean dictator Pinochet and demanded his deportation to Spain. Pinochet was not deported on his demand. Then the judge used the same accusations to prosecute against the former members of the Argentinean junta. But he also failed in this case and had only the self-advertisement caused by the scale of this case and nothing more.

Most probably, such termination of the investigation against Botin was not the only service provided by the judge for the banker. Popular Spanish Internet publication El Confidencial managed to reveal some details of their mutually beneficial collaboration. They discovered that, in the course of investigation of the money transfers made by former Chilean dictator Pinochet to the banks controlled by Botin, judge Garson agreed with the banker some «sponsorship aid» for non-disclosure of this information. Probably, the popularity and aid of the forced sponsors eventually turned the head of the Spanish judge. He started to search for new topics for sensational disclosures.

Further, the certainly ever-green Spanish topic of the «Russian Mafia» could not be omitted by Balthazar Garson. Here the shipping company of Vladimir Kokorev was "attached" to the case. Moreover, Kalunga Company received money transfers in Spain from the American bank (Riggs), in which Pinochet was keeping his money. And the accounts of Kalunga were opened, for the lucky chance, with Santander Bank, which was controlled by Botin.

It appears that Garson, who initiated the media controversy against Kalunga, could kill two or even three birds with one stone: first, a large international scandal somewhat drew the attention from investigation of the business of his partner Botin; second, it was possible to apply the scheme, which has already worked well in the case of Pinochet, and to force banker Botin to pay once again; and, third, to add some additional points to the reputation of the «fighter», in this case, against the «Russian Mafia», which points would help to this judge, taking into consideration his status of a person under investigation.

But this combination failed and there are the reasons. Having read the materials of the preliminary investigation of the public prosecutor with respect to the business of Kokorev, the Spanish judge understood that the matter is an ordinary shipping company, to which the government of Equatorial Guinea paid the contracts and invoices for the produced works, repair and service of vessels. If this information was not known by Garson in advance, he should certainly guess it. Therefore, he surely understood that he could hardly represent a really existing company as a non-existing buffer for accumulation of money to be laundered. Further, if he had no additional information, most probably, Garson would not dare to realize his plans. But …

Set of «Evidences» from Olle.

It appears that already before issue of the scandalous publications in Spanish press, judge’s old friend Manuel Olle told him that President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea has some relations with the company of Kokorev and was one of the founders or owners thereof. This information seemed so precise that Garson developed the plan for «investigation» of the business of Kalunga and started this combination.

There is such a special feature in the Spanish law that the judge can initiate the criminal investigation with respect to the application from any private person against any other person, even against the Pope of Rome, omitting the stages of preliminary investigation to be carried out by the police and public prosecutor. This «private person» in the investigations of Garson against the aforesaid Latin American dictators was the same person. He was Manuel Olle.

But if in the case of the Latin American dictators, who were accused for kidnapping and mass murders, the role of public prosecution, which was initiated by Olle, was rather auxiliary, then, in the preparedprosecution against President Teodoro Obiang of the former Spanish colony in Africa and Vladimir Kokorev, "natural person" Manuel Olle took the most active part. Olle declared that he had carried out the most difficult investigation, using the "newest international methods", and Garson believed to him.

However, in this case, this was not the matter of tortures and murders of people committed many years ago but the actual apartment of 90 square metres in the Canary Islands and, if we believe the facts said by Manuel Olle to the journalists in his numerous interviews, then for its acquisition President Teodoro Obiang, who is referred to in the Spanish press as "one of the richest persons in the world", had to "launder" money through small Kalunga Shipping Company".

But Olle made a mistake: neither Obiang had any relations with Kokorev-owned Kalunga, nor this company has ever carried out any operations in the real property market, and this well-composed combination of Garson collapsed all of a sudden.

However, all these facts did not impede  law teacher Manual Olle from fooling of journalists further on. His fantasies, which were covered by the authority of Garson (until this judge was discharged from his office), generated the press-supported rumours as if the Russian businessman "laundered" money for President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea.

Unlike judge Balthazar Garson, who was discharged from his office and, probably, will be soon prosecuted for the serious misuse of his official powers and corruption, the situation of Olle is excellent. This big case helped him to pass from the fighters against corruption in Africa to the camp of defenders of the local Spanish corrupt officials. Due to the press-initiated self-advertising campaign, he managed to get the invitation to take part in one of the biggest Spanish proceedings of the present time, and Manuel Olle is not confused by any means with the fact that his present client Jaime Matas, the former president of Balearic Islands (one of the Spanish autonomous territories), is accused for megabuck misappropriations in Majorca Island and for monstrous corruption. The student of Olle has certainly excelled the teacher of Garson…

Russian Judges Denounced the Spanish «Drain».

Six months ago, the information about the "Russian businessman, who deceived the president of Equatorial Guinea" was reprinted in more than ten Russian periodicals, who relied on the information from popular Spanish tabloids. Now, after the explanations given by Vladimir Kokorev and his lawyers, who represented to the journalists and judges the evidence for absurdity of the accusations in the Spanish press, everything is taking its place.

"This matter is not only of Vladimir Kokorev, - says Russian businessman’s lawyer Kirill Yushchenkov, - the libel in press caused damage to the reputation of hundreds of seamen, who worked for his Kalunga Company. All these people are fighting for their honour and dignity".

Therefore, our issues follow one another to publish the news, which disprove the "sensational disclosures" of the Spanish press. The contents of this news are approximately the same:

"The information published by our news resource in the article under the headline "Three Russians Robbed the President of Equatorial Guinea", which contain the statements that "Three Russians Robbed the President of Equatorial Guinea", "President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang, his family, and members of the national government lost 26.4 million US dollars as a result of the fraud, which was committed by the Russian couple", «Russian spouses robbed the money, for which the president of African country and his affiliated persons were going to purchase real property in Spain" do not comply with the real facts but defame the honour and dignity of the Kokorevs family".

Some time ago, famous African researcher Vladimir Kokorev in the course of his diplomatic activities passed through the "fire" of unquiet African countries; now he fully experienced the "brasses" of the Spanish press.

Nariman Tagilov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov