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Russian Lawmaker Claims Innocence As Mafia Trial Opens In Spain

Vladislav Reznik (file photo)

Russian lawmaker Vladislav Reznik and 17 other suspects have gone on trial in Spain accused of money laundering for two Russian organized-crime groups.

"I came to the session because I'm not guilty of anything and I trust the Spanish justice system," Reznik told the Madrid court on February 19, according to Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Prosecutors are seeking jail sentences of up to 5 1/2 years for most of the suspects and fines of up to 100 million euros ($124 million).

Prosecutors believe more than 50 million euros ($62 million) of Russian mafia money was laundered by the Tambov and Malyshev gangs -- two of Russia's largest and best-known criminal organizations.

The indictment says they "clearly managed to penetrate layers of the state apparatus" and have "links to Russian economic, political, judicial, and police power."

Reznik is a member of the ruling United Russia party, and previously was the first deputy chairman of the Finance Committee in the lower house of Russia's parliament, the State Duma.

His wife, Diana Gindin, also went on trial, along with five Spaniards accused of helping the Russians' money-laundering activities.

The alleged gang bosses, Gennady Petrov and Aleksandr Malyshev, are still at large.

The case dates back to 2008, when Spanish police detained 20 Russian suspects.

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.

The money laundering by Russian gangs in Spain is believed to have started in the 1990s, when rich Russians began buying luxury villas in the country.

With reporting by the BBC, RIA Novosti, and The Moscow Times