MADRID, Spain – Spanish police arrested 41 people in breaking up a massive money laundering operation originating in Russia, the Interior Ministry said Saturday.
Those arrested in the southern Costa del Sol region included Spanish, French, Finnish, Russian and Ukrainian citizens, the ministry said, describing the roundup as Spain’s biggest crackdown ever on money laundering.
The ministry said the money to be laundered – up to $336 million – stemmed from an illegal siphoning of funds from the embattled Russian oil firm Yukos, which has been partly dismantled to pay back taxes.
Yukos spokesman Alexander Shadrin dismissed the money laundering reports as “nonsense.”
“The only place left to look is on Mars – did we launder something there?” Shadrin told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.
Yukos’ biggest production unit was sold by the state in a disputed December auction to pay part of the $28 billion authorities say Yukos owes in back taxes.
The company has been the target of a legal campaign widely seen as punishment by the Kremlin against Yukos founder and ex-CEO Mikhail Khodorkvosky for his political ambitions and economic power.
Khodorkovsky has been jailed since his October 2003 arrest and is being tried on fraud and tax-evasion charges separate from the claims against the company.