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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yukos Linked to Spanish Bust

APPolice made arrests and seized luxury cars in the money-laundering bust.
MADRID -- Spanish police have arrested people suspected of siphoning funds from oil firm Yukos without the company's knowledge as part of a bigger money-laundering ring, a source close to the investigation said Sunday.

"These are individuals who from inside the Russian company appear to have diverted sums of money ... which then left the country without the knowledge of the company or the tax authorities," the source said.

Spanish police said Saturday that they had cracked a money-laundering operation worth up to 250 million euros ($337 million) that might have links to Yukos, but did not specify what those links might have been.

Police arrested 41 people, including several lawyers, based on Spain's southern coast and suspected of being part of a large criminal network spanning several countries.

The raids followed 10 months of investigation. Those arrested included Spanish, French, Finnish, Russian and Ukrainian citizens. The Spanish Interior Ministry said the operation was Spain's biggest crackdown on money laundering ever.

Police said they were chasing links to other activities including homicide, drug trafficking, illegal arms and prostitution.

The source declined to say how many of the 41 were Russian.

"They seem to have been ripping [Yukos] off as well, to invest in a Dutch company, which then sent the money to Spain," the source said.

Police also seized a ship, two small planes and 42 luxury cars, the Interior Ministry said, adding that Spanish authorities worked closely with the Russians on the case, dubbed "White Whale," which involved more than 300 police.

The ministry said police had been able to determine the possible destination for money stemming from a massive illegal siphoning of funds originating at Yukos, allegedly diverted to a Dutch company and then reinvested in a Spanish unit.

On Saturday Yukos denied reports that it might have been involved in money laundering in Spain. Yukos spokesman Alexander Shadrin told Ekho Moskvy that such reports were "nonsense."

"The only place left to look is on Mars -- did we launder something there?" Shadrin said.

Russian prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

 Prosecutors have opened a criminal case against the general director of a joint venture between Yukos and MOL of Hungary, a Yukos spokesman confirmed Friday.

Oleg Vitka, who has been detained by prosecutors, is accused of violating licensing agreements between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2003, that led to the Zapadno-Malobalykskoe company exceeding its agreed extraction quota by 52 percent, and receiving extra revenues of 536 million rubles ($19.5 million).

After appearing Wednesday for questioning by prosecutors in Khanty-Mansiisk region, where the company is located, a court in Nefteyugansk ordered that Vitka's period of custody be extended by two months.

(Reuters, AP)