The number of victims of a “sexual distortion” network that the Civil Guard eliminated in February last year is close to 4,000. According to a court document sent by Judge Jerónimo Cano to the Supreme Court, in which he suggests that the Superior Court of Spain, the National Court, supervises the case given the high number of victims and their wide scope in “practically the entire National territory”. . “
The criminal group told the victims that they would send the mafia to kill them if they didn’t pay
About 30 people are accused of being involved in this particular network, including Toño García, a player of the Valencian Levante UD football team. The two alleged leaders: Ismael Bousnina, alias Saveand Massinissa Ferrah, alias Erik – they have been in a prison in the eastern province of Teruel since their arrest in February 2018. They are under investigation for extortion, threats, crimes against privacy, forgery of documents, misappropriation, money laundering and organized crime.
Sextortion is a form of blackmail in which images or sexual information are used to extort a victim’s favors against his will. In one of the first reports included in the case, the Civil Guard described the network as an “organized criminal group” intended to blackmail people who had hired or tried to hire the services of prostitutes through the pasion.com website. According to the police report, the network could have been operating “for years,” leaving behind “hundreds or thousands of victims.”
The Civil Guard argued that the suspects “compulsively and extorted extortion of the victims, who, for fear that their family or partner discovered that they were using sexual services on a regular or sporadic basis, made payments of different amounts on one or more occasions “. He told the victims that they would send suspected members of an Eastern European mafia group to beat them or kill them if they didn’t pay. “I want my money in half an hour and if I don’t get it, I’ll shoot you twice in the leg,” they told a man if he didn’t deliver € 450.
“Mules” to receive money
According to several Civil Guard reports, the fear of being killed or injured “paralyzed the victims and led them to pay the requested money, which in some cases was more than several thousand euros.” One victim handed out € 25,000. By the time the first arrests were made, investigators said the network had made “hundreds of thousands of euros.”
To collect these payments, the alleged blackmailers established a network of accounts using front-men so that the blackmail cannot be traced to them. Working with a family from La Coma, a crime point in Valencia, the network coordinated a group of so-called “mules”, which allowed the blackmailers to use their bank accounts in exchange for a small commission. For every € 1,000 paid, € 50 went to the coordinator and € 50 to the mule. The money was immediately withdrawn from the accounts, most of the time using a code to avoid leaving traces of a card. One of the defendants moved more than € 250,000 “in just a few months,” of which € 233,000 went directly to accounts opened by people with passports from the Republic of Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa. Police suspect that these passports were false.
I want my money in half an hour and if I don’t get it, I’ll shoot you twice in the leg
The Civil Guard learned about the network in April 2018, when one of the victims filed a police report at a station in the municipality of Suelión, Teruel, after they continued to be extorted despite paying the blackmailers. “There will be consequences and your family will find out,” they told the person. In the following months, six other Teruel residents reported similar crimes. The investigation soon spread to the provinces of Navarra, Castellón and Gipuzkoa, where nine other victims were found. The first investigations pointed to the province of Valencia as the site of the sexual distortion network, given that the bank accounts that collected the money from the blackmail were there. Ten months later, the officers arrested Bousnina and Ferrah, both from Valencia.
Last year, Judge Cano tried to turn the case over to the Superior Court due to the “magnitude” of the investigation, but his request was denied because the network did not operate throughout Spain. In response, Judge Cano asked the Supreme Court to decide in which court the case should be heard.
English version by Melissa Kitson.