NYT: A chilling verdict in Spain

February 11, 2012
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Devastating op-ed in today’s New York Times, on the judicial shenanigans in Spain  here.

En castellano:

Los enemigos del Juez Baltasar Gárzón finalmente se han salido con la suya.  El Tribunal Supremo esta semana declaró culpable al juez de aplicar mal las leyes españolas sobre la interceptación de comunicaciones y le han suspendido de los tribunales por un período de once años.

El juez Garzón ha desempeñado un papel importante en la transición a la democracia en España, como látigo de politicos corruptos tanto de la izquierda como de la derecha, y como un potente paladín del derecho internacional en el ámbito de los derechos humanos.  Sus esfuerzos por enjuiciar al dictador chileno, General Augusto Pinochet, y por investigar los horrores de la época de la  Guerra Civil Española, aunque no dieron frutos, han adelantado el principio de que no puede haber ni amnistía ni impunidad cuando se trata de crímenes contra la humanidad.

El veredicto del jueves surge de unas escuchas realizadas en la cárcel de conversaciones entre abogados y sus clientes.  El juez ordenó esas escuchas durante un proceso en 2008, que versaba sobre sobornos supuestamente pagados a oficiales locales del Partido Popular, que en la actualidad está en el poder.  El Juez Garzón no fue el único que ordenó las escuchas, pero es el único que fue enjuiciado, a pesar de que el Fiscal sostenía que no había fundamentos para un proceso criminal.  Condenar a un jurista por una resolución jurídia es un repugnante ataque a la independencia judicial.  Hay otros dos casos pendientes contra el Juez Garzón – uno sobre su investigación de las massacres cometidas durante la guerra civil y la dictadura franquista, y el otro sobre acusaciones de conflicto de intereses en un caso de fraude de hacienda.

El Juez Garzón no es perfecto, ni mucho menos; pero el  veredicto del Tribunal Supremo de España que lo suspende perjudica enormemente las posibilidades de una justicia equitativa e imparcial.  ¿Qué Juez-Magistrado ahora no lo pensará dos veces antes de emprender investigaciones de casos con implicaciones políticas?  Los crímenes de la época de Franco, que durante dos generaciones han sido una herida abierta en España: ¿quedarán sin investigar para siempre?

El Juez Garzón no puede apelar en el sistema de tribunales españoles.  Pero puede cuestionar la decision en el Tribunal Constitucional de España y el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos en Estrasburgo.  Esperamos que lo haga.  Como demuestra muy claramente el aborto de la justicia realizado esta semana, España todavía necesita su ayuda para mantener una rama judicial valiente e independiente.

New York Times

11 de febrero de 2012

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5 Responses to “ NYT: A chilling verdict in Spain ”

  1. Vladimir Kokorev on February 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Sorry to put it out so bluntly, but you guys have not done your homework before writing this editorial – either this or you are intentionally ignoring the severity of the accusations brought up against Garzon. If you are interested in an analysis of the facts behind those trials, please check http://www.vladimirkokorev.com/baltazar-garzon-good-guys-wrong

  2. Octavio Zaya on February 13, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Nonsense, Mr. Kokorev. I’m afraid that is YOU who has been misleading your readers with half truths.

    The ruling stemmed from prison wiretaps of conversations between lawyers and their clients that the judge ordered in a 2008 case involving bribes allegedly paid to local officials of the now-ruling conservative Popular Party. JUDGE GARZON WAS NOT ALONE IN ORDERING THOSE WIRETAPS!!! (Did you get WHAT you conveniently hide from your so-called analysis, Mr. Kokorev?). OTHER JUDGES SIGN THE ORDER, but only Garzón was prosecuted, EVEN WHILE THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR argued that there were NO grounds for a criminal proceeding.

    Garzón argued that the wiretaps were necessary because the defendants, in preventative prison, continued to operate their money-laundering schemes FROM JAIL THROUGH THEIR LAWYERS. This THIS ASSESSMENT WAS CONFIRMED DURING THE TRIAL BY FOUR MEMBERS OF THE POLICE FINANCIAL CRIMES DIVISION (you also ignore this fact in your “analysis”). Even the Spanish prosecutor’s office wanted the case thrown out. But Spanish law allows private prosecution, which successfully convinced the court that Garzón had crossed the line.

    Philippe Sands, who teaches international law at University College in London, expressed concern over the process in his comments to The New York Times: “This is very troubling; targeting an independent judge or prosecutor through the criminal justice system anywhere raises very serious concerns,” he said. “To sanction a possible breach of ethics or misconduct is up to the professional organizations. To bring down the criminal justice system on an investigative judge for an alleged fault is to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It’s almost unique in Europe.”

    You don’t present the facts, Mr. Kokorev, but your bad faith; that is, your ideological “analysis.”

  3. Maria Elena Jurado on October 3, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Well seems the final day of VLADIMIR KOKOREV, IGOR KOKOREV, JULIA KOKOREV AND VLADIMIR KOKOREV JR, has reached the end. Today the firts three are in custody ARRESTED IN PANAMA. Under extradition request of SPAIN for money laundering. Kokorev son, is currently at large in New York .

    Sorry to put is out so bluntly, Mr. Kokorev, your days are over, needless to say you ridiculous analysis of Judge GARZON, know we know which are the grounds for your dislike of SPANISH LAW ENFORCEMENT

  4. Maria Elana Jurado on October 12, 2015 at 7:51 am

    MARIA ELENA JURADO ATTORNEYS & CONSULTANTS

    KOKOREV FEIGNS ILLNESS TO DELAY HIS EXTRADITION TO SPAIN TO FACE MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES

    Vladimir Kokorev, the Russian businessman who has been charged by Spain with laundering $26.4m for the corrupt president of Equatorial Guinea, has managed to delay the extradition proceedings pending against him in the Republic of Panama, by feigning illness. His son, Igor, who has also been charged, has already been sent to Madrid. The Kokorev family allegedly laundered millions of dollars, diverted by the Equatorial Guinean president, from oil revenues, and purchased real estate in Spain for their client.

    Rumors that Vladimir Kokorev, against whom an arrest warrant was, after an unusual delay of eleventh months, issued in Spain, is a Cooperating Individual for agencies of US law enforcement continue to percolate in Panama, and some there believe that he gave evidence against Viktor Bout, as both individuals were engaged in illicit arms trafficking in Africa & Asia. Did the United States protect the Kokorevs from arrest, while they resided in the pricey real estate they own in New York City ?

    Remember, Kokorev, using a Panama corporation, moved millions out of Riggs Bank, which contributed in a large part to its downfall. Surely you recall the US Senate investigation and report on Riggs Banks, General Augusto Pinochet, and Equatorial Guinea; it was the biggest PEP banking scandal of the decade.

    Whether American influence succeeds in keeping Vladimir Kokorev out of a Spanish prison we cannot say at this time, but we understand that, should he ultimately end up in Russia, to face charges there, other individuals against whom he reportedly gave evidence may have an opportunity to exact Russia’s unique form of justice. Who says money laundering is not a dangerous occupation ?

  5. Igor kokorev on July 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Both cases show that even when the road to accountability appears to be blocked, dedicated police, investigators and judges can be found who will keep pushing, and who will remove or bypass roadblocks to bring the cases forward.
    The 17 goals in the new global development agenda just approved at the UN include ambitious commitments to “substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms,” and to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows.”

    Sceptics will ask how this, all part of Sustainable Development Goal 16, is to happen—and no one underestimates the challenges. But two events that unfolded on the eve of the UN General Assembly show at least one way forward—and the vital role that civil society groups can play in mobilizing national justice systems to tackle the international networks of corruption that undermine development by impoverishing people and fueling conflict.

    At the end of August, police in Spain arrested Michel Desaedeleer, a dual American-Belgian national, over his involvement between 1999 and 2001 in the trade in “blood diamonds,” which fueled Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war. Desaedeleer was arrested on a European arrest warrant issued by a Belgian court, where he has been accused of the war crime of pillage, and of enslavement; the case against him was developed by Civitas Maxima, a Swiss NGO, and Sierra Leone’s Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, on behalf of a group of Sierra Leonean citizens who endured forced labor mining diamonds for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), during the civil war. It is alleged that the RUF compelled the enslaved laborers to mine the diamonds, which were then sent to their ally Charles Taylor in Liberia, from where the diamonds were introduced onto the world market, in turn providing money for arms purchases.

    As the two partner NGOs note [PDF], this is the “first time that a businessman has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the international crimes of both pillage of blood diamonds and enslavement of civilians.” It is also the first time since the Second World War that a business person is being charged with pillage, a crime that is, essentially, theft in the context of armed conflict. (A good quick animated explanation of pillage is available here.)

    Meanwhile, the arrest in Panama of three Russians in early September quietly established another legal milestone.

    Once again, an international arrest warrant was involved, this time issued by a magistrate in Spain investigating corruption and money-laundering complaints against senior officials in Equatorial Guinea—an oil-rich country whose population remains largely mired in extreme poverty. The three Russians, Vladimir Kokorev, an ex-diplomat, his wife, Yulia, and their younger son Igor, face charges over their role in a Panamanian shell company called Kalunga Company, S.A., originally linked to Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodor Obiang during a U.S. investigation into the Washington, D.C.–based Riggs Bank.

    Once again, civil society played a critical role—in 2008, the Spanish NGO Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE), in close collaboration with the Open Society Justice Initiative, filed a criminal complaint in Spain alleging that Kalunga was involved in laundering some $26.5 million diverted from the Equatoguinean Treasury account at Riggs, in part through property investments in Spain.

    The Spanish investigation then began to connect many of the dots. In 2009 the Spanish media reported that two senior officials and family relations of President Obiang had received over $2 million from the Kalunga account. The president’s son-in-law, and former ambassador to Russia, Fausto Abeso Fuma, received $1,944,900 from Kalunga between December 1999 and July 2003; and President Obiang’s nephew, Melchor Esono Edjo, former Secretary of the Treasury, and co-signatory on the Riggs Equatorial Guinea Treasury account, received $201,132 between April and July 2003. Other senior officials who received money from Kalunga or other Kokorev-managed accounts have also been identified.

    Spanish police were reportedly developing a plan to detain the Kokorevs in 2012, but they slipped out of the country, around Easter that year. Shortly after the issuance of a warrant this August, Panamanian police acted, and three members of the Kokorev family are now in detention, with expectation that they will be extradited to Spain. The whereabouts of a fourth son, Vladimir (junior), are apparently unknown.

    As with the Desaedeleer case, we are still probably far from an actual trial. But both cases show that even when the road to accountability appears to be blocked, dedicated police, investigators and judges can be found who will keep pushing, and who will remove or bypass roadblocks to bring the cases forward. Both cases also needed years of involvement from committed civil society activists. Together they underline the role that civil society groups can and should play, if we are to make progress towards the targets for fighting corruption and dirty money set out out in the new global development goals.

    Update, November 3, 2015: Vladimiri Kokorev and his wife were extradited by Panama to Spain on October 30, 2015.

    Learn More:
    Governance & Accountability, Open Society Justice Initiative, Anticorruption, Criminal Justice

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