14 de junio de 2015 (12:55 CET)
Mijaíl Monastyrskiy had taken refuge in Estepona (Spain).
He had fled from Russia, but do not think for a moment that he was trying to run away from law enforcement officers. Far from it. He was chased by his former party colleagues, the party intelligentsia, and the top dogs in one of the world's most dangerous criminal ventures: Tobovskaya.
It was early 2007 when he was located.
He recalled the day when four chunky Russian mafiamen stormed into his plush pad in Southern Spain and beat the living daylights out of him. Next, he was tied up, gagged and shoved into the basement, where he struggled for a good twelve hours until he was found by a cleaner.
Needless to say, they were only warning him. A cautionary note that could have played out otherwise: with him ending up two feet underground. When it comes to straightening you out, Mafia knows best.
Mijaíl would not describe himself as a coward, but on that occasion he found no other way but to head off to an erstwhile hated place: a police station. A friend of him acted as a liaison between the beleaguered exmafia man and the high ranks of the Spanish service. His trusted Sergei, a senior officer in the Russian police, threw him a much-needed lifeline when the man saw himself cornered.
The FSB official (FSB stands for Federal Security Service, a partially secret cell which reports directly to President Vladimir Putin, and whose main duties are mass spying on foreign intervention and counterinteligence operations, among others--, had nurtured a bond with the Spanish police. In those circumstances, that connection came in handy.
A few months earlier, Spain's Audiencia Nacional, an ad hoc court for particularly severe offences, the State Prosecutor and a number of units from the country's anticrime force, carefully selected from the nation's several police forces, had spearheaded Operación Avispa. Operation Wasp was then heralded as the largest police operation in living memory against Eastern European criminal gangs. Dozens were arrested in Spanish soil, and the reputation of Costa del Sol as a safe heaven for Russian mafioso was bludgeoned.
Before, a number of gang members had secretly purchased villas in the sun-drenched and apparently lawless strip of land. Mijail was one of them. They erred miserably.
Turning point: an exchange with Troika
On the 2nd of March 2007, Mijail had a brief encounter with a pair of international officers from the Police Organized Crime Force. The three men discussed matters over a lunch in Madrid.
Unaware as they were, they were being tapped by undercover agents. The transcripts now flesh out proceedings against a criminal gang known as Vor Zakonen, a tightly-knit posse headed by Gennadios Petrov. The Spanish police surgically undid the criminal venture under Operation Troika, which is still being trialed in the country's courts.
Spilling the beans
What Mijail said during that lunch turned out to be priceless information for Spain's law enforcement officers. The gangman-turned-tout shed light on how a criminal mammouth acted beyond the boundaries of the law in Russia.
Economía Digital has had access to that conversation.
Mijaíl Monastyrskiy spares no details to describe what he and his fellow gangmen in Tombovskaya were up to. He does not bat an eyelid when he is heard saying that they want him dead now. At several stages of that afternoon he brings up matters related to one man: Kumarin. That individual was indeed on radar and being tracked by Spain's Anticorruption office.
Vladimir Sergeevich Kumarin held a position within the ranks of Vor Zakonen. He had cut his teeth as a hitmen for the organisation until was drafted to less menial matters.
-"What is and how does work Tombovskaya?" – one of the officers is heard saying.
-"That is not an straightforward matter, Mijail retorted, it is a criminal venture artificially concocted by Saint Petersburg's secret services. Its scope spans oil, real estate and whatever has any prospects of return of investment. And believe me when I say that they do not hesitate to wipe out any rivals they may find along the way".
He then produced several names, people who were at the top of the ruthless organisation: Kumarin, Ledovsky and Briansky. Also, over that lunch, the pair could extracted him additional titbits of information: Kumarin was pulling the strings behind Saint Petersburg Oil Company.
-"Kumarin is their PR man, he is no more than a face. However scary his name might sound, more powerful individuals are above him. Kumarin's estimated wealth stands at a reasonable €50 million".
Government and gangs, two in one
As the waiters flickered around the room, the two constables carried on. He did not pose any resistance and gave up inmediately: names, data and places. Unvaluable information that would later be used in further proceedings.
- "Creating Tombovskaya was an order given by Saint Petersburg's FSB. They designed it and brought it to life. They act with some degree of acquiescence from the government. In other words, Kumarin is a protégée of the powers that be in the area, because Kumarin channels them money and security services. Those men know that Kumarin is not going to plot against them, that he is not going to run away with the booty. As long as the pact applies, Kumarin is a source of income. That said, bear two names in mind: Igor Sechin and Alexander Karmatsky".
-"Sechin?", one of the officers snapped after exchanging glances with his colleague.
-"Yes, that is him. Sechin is CEO of Rosned and its deputy chairman. He is Putin's right-hand man. He has performed tasks alongside the President dating back to '92".
-"What about Karmatsky"?
-"Karmatsky is a general in the FSB and the drugs action commander-in-chief in Saint Petersburg", Mijail replied.
Mafia as part of the Russian State
Reached that point, Mijail was going out of his way to convey that the Russian mafia, Tombovskaya, was part of the Russian state. An agency. A limb that can crush anyone at whim. That is at least what the officers reported afterwards.
"Politics in Russia is complicated. But one thing is abundantly clear: no one dares to question the power of the State. The apex of the pyramid governing over a nation of bandits, whores and crooked politicians. Kumarin will go to the dogs whenever Putin is ousted, mark my words".
Overwhelmed by an unexpectedly open mafioso, the three men agreed to meet again.
Connecting the dots
Come that point, the Spanish police came to the realization that they had found a gold seam. They had been given data, names, account numbers and dates by someone drudged from the very vowels of one of the world's most dangerous criminal structures. They had been offered an array of data by a man who pretended not to be scared, but that was nonetheless unable to keep his anguish in disguise.
Not to say that Mijail Monastyrskiy was a nobody. He had served time in Russia, and was then recruited by the Tombovskaya clan. From that point on he earned a well-deserved reputation as trigger-happy hitman who could be relied upon. Scrambling up the ladder, he went as far as gaining an election and becoming an elected representative at the Duma, the Russian parliament.
Rubbing salt in the wound
-"In Estepona they just warned you", said one of the cops before they bad farewell to each other.
-"Yes, I know", nodded Mijail's shaved head.
-"Why would not they finish off the job? What else would they want from you?"
- "The same as you want. My memory".
Spain's police forces could not believe their luck. All the information extracted from Mijail, a former hitman and MP, helped furnish Operation Troika. Alongside Operation Wasp it constituted one of the hardest ever blows delivered to a Russian criminal organisation.
A despicable man
However, as some of the Tombovskaya men rotted in Spanish jails, the two constables often recall the out-of-this-world encounter. A bald, chubby man, his skin lashed by the Mediterranean sun was undoing in front of them one of the world's most shameful plots. The 61-year-old billionaire had veered from hardened criminal to a gentleman of fine tastes. Who would then maintain that he once was a public representative up for bribing and a helpless paedophile?
The thug-turned-messieur had teetered on edge for some time, playing seek-and-hide and staying alive out of sheer luck. That would not certainly be the end of it.
Five months after that lunch, paramedics where called to a crime scene in Saint Julieen, in the greater Lyon area (France). Mijail's body appeared torn apart, every bone in his body crushed after a lorry had ran over him at low speed. It was to be a closed coffin funeral.
Kumarin was arrested a year later. The man was cornered by Guardia Civil constables acting under the umbrella of Operación Troika.