Barcelona restaurant at centre of money laundering probe

Police in Spain on Tuesday detained the son of Kiev's colourful former mayor Leonid Chernovetsky on suspicion of leading a ring that laundered money for Ukrainian organised crime groups.

Barcelona restaurant at centre of money laundering probe
Police suspect money was laundered through the Japanese restaurant. Photo: Yubari

Stepan Chernovetsky, whose father served as mayor of the Ukrainian capital between 2006 and 2012, was arrested along with 10 other people in Barcelona, sources close to the investigation said.

The ring is suspected of having laundered over €10 million ($11 million) through a network of companies in Cyprus and the Virgin Islands that bought real estate in Spain, anti-corruption prosecutors said in a statement.

The origin of this money “has not been duly justified” since the ring did not have “legal income which could justify the increase in their property assets”, the statement added.

Spanish authorities suspect the ring may also have chaneled money through a well-known luxury Japanese restaurant in Barcelona, Yubari.

Famous footballers such as Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazil's Neymar were known to dine at the restaurant.   

Public prosecutors ordered the restaurant to be closed and demanded the arrest of its owner, Armenian national Arman Mayilyan, an investigation source said.

The majority of those arrested were Ukrainian and Russian nationals.   

Prosecutors accuse them of being members of a criminal group, money laundering, document falsification and tax fraud.   

Police carried out 16 searches in Barcelona and the nearby beach resort of S'Agaro as part of the investigation, police said in a statement.   

Last month Spanish police arrested eight people and seized €62 million as part of another probe into a group suspected of laundering Russian mafia money by buying property on the Catalan coast.

A hugely controversial figure with many enemies, Chernovetsky senior had a controlling stake in the Ukrainian bank Pravex until 2008, when Italy's Intesa SanPaolo bought the bank for $750 million.

Nicknamed “Lyonya Kosmos” for his spaced-out eccentricities, the mayor has been accused of insanity by opponents after antics that included recording a disc of 1980s hits and proposing to auction off his kisses.

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Spain launches project to import Ukraine grain by train

Spain has launched a pilot project to import grain from Ukraine by train to explore the possibility of using rail transport while maritime routes are blocked or restricted by war.

Spain launches project to import Ukraine grain by train

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February has severely disrupted Ukrainian grain exports, hampering harvests and trapping up to 25 million tonnes of wheat and other grain in Kyiv’s Black Sea ports.

The war has sent global food prices soaring and sparked fears of famine.

As part of the Spanish project, a Renfe freight train “consisting of 25 containers, each measuring 40 foot (12 metres)” left Madrid late Tuesday for the Polish town of Chelm near the Ukrainian border, the transport ministry said.

It will travel 2,400 kilometres (1,500 miles) to Chelm where it will collect 600 tonnes of grain and return to Barcelona in early September.

“This is a pilot project… to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of transporting grain via the railway network crossing Europe from Lodz in Poland to Barcelona,” the ministry said in a statement.

The containers have been fitted with special liners to allow them to carry grain, the ministry said.

On July 22nd, Russia and Ukraine signed a UN-backed deal brokered by Turkey to lift Moscow’s naval blockade and release millions of tonnes of blocked grain, thereby helping avert a global food crisis.

A total of 12 ships have so far left three different Ukrainian Black Sea ports since then.

With the reopening, the Spanish project will also help “to analyse the capacity of land transport to support maritime routes,” the ministry said.