Vladimir Kokorev during the hearing of his extradition to Spain in Panama, weeks before being transferred to a prison in the Canary Islands.
An affable and educated Russian couple with their neighbors at number 82 Pintor Rosales street in Madrid, looted 120 million of the treasury coffers of Equatorial Guinea by selling weapons, ships and helicopters to the former Spanish colony, with large extra costs and the help of relatives and generals of the dictator Teodoro Obiang. Vladimir Kokorev, his wife Julia and their children Igor and Vladimir moved 679 million through the threads of a gigantic web of companies in tax havens in which they hid their criminal activity for 15 years, according to a 500-page report from the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office.
The judicial investigation has proven that Fausto Abeso Fuma, son-in-law of the president of Equatorial Guinea and former director general of the Military Cabinet, collected 2.7 million from the Kokorevs; Melchor Esono Edjo, nephew and former Secretary of State for the Treasury, received 201,000; Agustín Ndjon Ona Mbuy, cousin of the dictator and general of the Armed Forces, pocketed 103,000; Hassan Khalil Hashem, presidential advisor on defense, 1.2 million; and Luciano Esono Bitegue Ate, former director of the President's Military Cabinet, 2.3 million. Illegal commissions paid with embezzled public funds. Anti-corruption calls for eight years in prison for Vladimir and six for Julia and Igor, alleged front men of President Obiang, for multiple crimes of money laundering, in addition to fines of 550 million.
Vladimir Kokorev, 66, introduced himself as a historian, although people around him claim that he collaborated with the KGB, the Soviet Union's intelligence agency; his wife Julia Maleeva, 66, did it as a journalist. Igor made his debut as a lawyer in a prestigious Madrid law firm. Neither the jealous concierge of their property, in one of the most exclusive areas of the capital, in which they invested almost three million, nor the most distrustful neighbor imagined that this discreet family sold military equipment for defense and dual use, weapons of war, Guided rockets, armored vehicles, fighter bombers, helicopter gunships and frigates to Equatorial Guinea. Their names were not listed on the mailbox, only that of Blue Profile, the shell company used to buy the home. A National Police car guarded the building day and night,in which the Syrian embassy is also located.
The peace of the family ended when in 2007 this newspaper published several reports on transfers of 130 million that the couple had received in an account in the name of their Panamanian company Kalunga Company in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the Association for Human Rights of Spain presented a lawsuit against them as alleged front men of the President of Equatorial Guinea.
The couple testified before the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, but judicial and police apathy froze the investigation initiated by a Las Palmas Court for years.
The president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, last Monday at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP
In 2012, during a meeting of French and Spanish prosecutors in Madrid to discuss Teodorín Obiang, the son of the dictator who was to be tried in Paris, the name of the Kokorevs was put on the table. Mysteriously, days later the family left their home and escaped the raid. The tentacles of the Kokorevs reached very far. A year later, Igor had “unofficial access” to the report that the Drug and Organized Crime Unit (UDYCO) had prepared on them. Six years later, in 2018, Vladimir, Julia and Igor were arrested in Panama and extradited to Spain. They have been in preventive detention for more than two years. Another of his sons, Vladimir, is missing and a search and arrest warrant is planning on him. Suspected of residing in the United States.
The search at the house of Pintor Rosales became a mine for investigators. Dozens of contracts for the purchase and sale of weapons and military equipment were found on Vladimir's computers. And the documents on the true value of the material, many times used, that they sold to Equatorial Guinea. Two fighter bombers for which they paid 1.8 million were sold for 25.5 million, an extra cost of 23 million "with which the profits agreed with the military advisor of Obiang Hassan Hashem and Luciano Esono were covered," according to the brief from the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office.
The evidence found in this and other records served the prosecutor Luis del Río Montes de Oca and Ana Isabel de Vega, the Las Palmas judge who instructed the case, to support their investigation that began a decade earlier. The judicial police managed to reconstruct the 59 transfers made between 2005 and 2012 with funds from the Public Treasury of Equatorial Guinea to the obscure network of instrumental companies in Panama and the Seychelles Islands created by the Kokorevs. The money, which ended up in the Nordea Bank of Denmark and later in the Credit Suisse of Switzerland, amounted to 679 million. Several emails show that Vladimir contacted Teodoro Obiang, president of Equatorial Guinea, to attend to his requests for weapons in the event of a possible coup d'état.
The prosecution affirms that to launder the 120 million earnings, Vladimir Kokorev used Lithuanian and Russian front men, whom he placed at the head of a corporate web woven by himself from the shadows. In particular, of Vladimir Evdokimov, 56, convicted of illegal trafficking of cruise missiles to China and Iran. And he attributes a transcendental role to Juan Arencibia, lawyer and former partner of the Ernst & Young consultancy in Las Palmas, and to his sisters Margarita and María Luisa, one of them paid by one of the instrumental societies of marriage. "For the success of the criminal plan (Arencibia) contributed its accounts in Switzerland and its companies in the Netherlands Antilles," says the indictment signed by prosecutor Javier Ródenas, Del Río's substitute.
The house on Calle Pintor Rosales and the other eight floors and 107 villas (Sands Beach Resort) that the Kokorevs hastily abandoned in Madrid, Las Palmas and Tenerife were just loose ends in a long string of properties around the world, valued at 91 millions. The investigations of the Judicial Police have led to the jewel in the crown of this Russian couple: two apartment buildings in New York. For the first, located at 901 Broadway Street, they paid 17.6 million; for the second, at 290 Mulberry Street, they paid 22.3. In the Big Apple, the family also bought an apartment in the Trump Palace Tower, on 69th Street, which cost two million, and another on 85th Street, for 5.8 million. The latter was acquired by Sandra Herrera Sánchez, wife of Vladimir, the escaped son.
The Kokorevs' real estate appetite also led them in search of more buildings to London where they took one at 113 Jermyn Street for 4.5 million and another at 285 Oxford Street, both in the heart of London, for which they disbursed 12.3 million
In Panama, the country where they were detained, they enjoyed an apartment in the Mystic Point Towers for which they paid 318,000 euros;
a floor in the Trump Ocean Club Panama Tower valued at 632,000 and an office in the Global Bank Tower for 199,000.
In the Dominican Republic, they acquired a villa in the Casa de Campo urbanization, near Santo Domingo, for a price of 2.7 million.
The Las Palmas judge Ana Isabel Vega issued in May an order to open an oral trial that will force the couple and their son to sit on the bench for an alleged crime of money laundering.
The conditions imposed by Panama for their extradition to Spain prevent them from being tried for other crimes.
The Association for Human Rights of Spain requests nine years for Vladimir and six for his wife and son.
The Kokorev defense denies the facts and demands his acquittal.
Reports and espionage of a lawyer and two journalists
The investigation has proven that Vladimir Kokorev hired the Madrid communication company Consultores Quantumleap (CQL) for 140,000 euros to erase news of his criminal activities from the Internet, publish information favorable to the Government of Teodoro Obiang and publish a book, which the journalist wrote Alfonso Merlo, in which the journalistic, judicial and police version was contradicted. The cost of this book was set at 40,000 euros. The police found several emails between Kokorev and Merlo in which the former gave him instructions on the orientation of the work.
Among the documentation seized from the criminal group are three extensive reports prepared by the consulting firm led by Jesús Timoteo Álvarez, now deceased, on Manuel Ollé, the lawyer who presented the complaint against Obiang on behalf of the Human Rights Association of Spain; about the
Antonio Rubio, and about an EL PAÍS editor who has been reporting on this Russian family for 13 years. In the case of the latter, the so-called “elite qualitative investigation” included serious and false accusations that the Kokorevs managed to publish years before in Russian media such as Pradva. Several handwritten notes show that the bank accounts of the journalists and the lawyer were investigated.
The indictment of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office mentions the efforts of Vladimir and his son Igor in hiring the services of this communication agency. The consulting firm titled this contract “Kokorev. Work Plan and times ”and classified it as“ highly confidential ”.