Chinese art dealer suspected of money laundering is jailed

MADRID (AFP) – A Spanish judge Saturday ordered a Chinese businessman and art dealer be kept in jail on suspicion of leading a gang that laundered hundreds of thousands of euros, a judicial source said.

Gao Ping, 45, was remanded in custody pending an ongoing investigation into the alleged money-laundering racket involving Chinese businesses in Spain, in which more than 80 people have so far been arrested.

Of the 82 suspects questioned by judge Fernando Andreu so far, 47 have been remanded in custody including Gao and his wife, 23 have been freed on bail and 12 have been released, said the source, who asked not to be named.

Gao, reportedly from Zheijiang province in northeastern China, was a high-flying member of Spain’s large Chinese immigrant community, owning businesses including art galleries in Madrid and Beijing.

Over 500 police took part in “Operation Emperor,” the probe that yielded last week’s arrests. They said they seized 10 million euros ($13 million) in cash as well as 200 vehicles, guns, jewels and works of art.

Top anti-corruption prosecutor Antonio Salinas said the network laundered up to 300,000 euros a year, dodging taxes, bribing officials and forging documents.

Among other high-profile suspects to have gone before the judge in the case is Nacho Vidal, an international porn star who says he is innocent of involvement in the racket.

Gao was the last of a batch of 11 suspects, described by the judicial source as the hard core of the network’s leadership, who were questioned in preliminary hearings by the judge on Saturday.

Police and judicial authorities said Gao was suspected of being the leader of the network. Judges will rule later at an unspecified date whether he will go on trial.

In its efforts to fix its public finances, the Spanish government has announced measures to recover tax revenues which included an amnesty for some back taxes owed on big fortunes.