A Spanish judge has issued international arrest warrants for several current and former Russian government officials and other political figures closely linked to President Vladimir Putin.
The named Russians include a former prime minister and an ex-defense minister, as well as a current deputy prime minister and the current head of the lower house of parliament's finance committee.
The Spanish documents target alleged members of two of Russia's largest and best-known criminal organizations -- the Tambov and Malyshev gangs -- in connection with crimes committed in Spain, including murder, weapons and drug trafficking, extortion, and money laundering.
Russians with alleged ties to the crime groups include a former prime minister and an ex-defense minister, as well as a current deputy prime minister and the current head of the lower house of parliament's finance committee.
Spanish police also conclude that one of the gangs was able to penetrate Russian ministries, security forces, and other key government institutions and businesses with the help of an influential senior legislator.
Judge Jose de la Mata issued 12 arrest warrants in January but the action was not announced to the press until May 2.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) listens to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak
Spanish authorities are seeking the arrest of Vladislav Reznik, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party and first deputy chairman of the Finance Committee in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.
Those alleged to be tied to the gangs include Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, a former public prosecutor in Putin's native St. Petersburg who joined Putin's Kremlin administration as chief of staff at its inception in 1999-2000.
Another is Viktor Zubkov, who served as Russian prime minister from September 2007 until May 2008. He then served as Putin's first deputy prime minister from May 2008 until May 2012, during Dmitry Medvedev's presidency.
Also named as alleged members are Nikolai Aulov, the deputy head of Russia's Federal Antinarcotics Service; former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov; former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sobolevsky; and former Information Technology Minister Leonid Reiman.
The arrest warrants follow an investigation by Spanish police into the Russian gangs' activities in Spain from 2008 to 2011. A copy of the Spanish prosecutor's resulting 400-page report that reached the media in June indicated that ties between the Tambov gang's activities in Spain and the Kremlin insiders was established largely through recordings of phone calls.
The investigation particularly highlights the role of Gennady Petrov, who is believed to be the head of the Tambov group. He was arrested during a raid on his Majorca villa in 2008 in a sweep that also netted 20 other suspected members of the Spanish branch of the Tambov gang. However, Petrov was later allowed to travel to Russia and has been living in St. Petersburg ever since.
"The criminal organization headed by Petrov managed to achieve a clear penetration of the state structures of his country, not only with the lawmaker [Vladislav] Reznik but with several ministers," the prosecutor's report said.
Spanish police allege that Petrov managed to penetrate Russian institutions including municipalities, ministries, security forces, ports authorities, and private organizations such as banks and corporations through Reznik's influence.
Petrov became co-owner of the Bank Rossia in 1998 to 1999, together with three of Putin's close friends: Nikolai Shamalov, Viktor Myachin, and Yury Kovalchuk. The three Putin friends were founding members of the Ozero Collective.
The Ozero ("Lake") Collective is a residential housing cooperative that Putin and close acquaintances formed in 1996 to purchase lakeside property and build vacation homes for themselves near St. Petersburg. The homes form a gated community and the members of the cooperative have since gone on to prominent positions in Russian government and business and become very wealthy.
The Tambov and Malyshev gangs both originated as protection rackets in St. Petersburg in the late 1980s. Rivals in the past, the two fought a bloody battle for supremacy in 1989 and are believed to control scores of industrial enterprises and engage in drug trafficking, prostitution, protection rackets, and money laundering.
A criminal investigation into a 1 billion-euro money-laundering operation in Bulgaria in 2008 by the Tambov gang provided one recent measure of its scale of operations.
The question now is whether Moscow will react to Spain's issuance of arrest warrants and whether it would extradite any of those named. Almost all are believed to be currently residing in Russia.
"Today the main figures in the Spanish [prosecutor's] report are living in Russia without any problems, and they are doing fine," Andrei Zykov, a retired senior investigator who specialized in corruption and serious economic crimes in areas including St. Petersburg, told RFE/RL in December.
With reporting by El Mundo and Republica
*This article has been amended to clarify that Vladislav Reznik was named in a Spanish arrest warrant.