A married couple of Russian origin living in an upscale neighborhood of Madrid sold arms including missiles, armored vehicles, ships and combat helicopters to Equatorial Guinea in exchange for around $120 million euros. Almost all of the weapons were made in Russia. Equatorial Guinea, one of the richest countries in western Africa, is a former Spanish colony whose main source of revenue is oil exports.
Through a wide-ranging network of connections, which they developed via acquaintances and family members, the couple was able to develop ties with the longtime dictator of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang. The couple – Vladimir Kokorev and his wife Julia Maleeva, along with their children Igor and Vladimir, were able to transfer about 680 million euros via a giant network of companies in tax havens as well as payment of commissions to their family members and confidants in Russia and Equatorial Guinea (including the ruler of the country).
Thus, the family was able to conceal its activities for about 15 years, according to a 500-page report by the Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor's office. While under questioning, Vladimir Kokorev, who is 66, claimed that he is a history professor, but people close to him, who were also questioned, claimed that he worked in the past for the KGB, the Soviet Union's intelligence agency. His wife, Julia Maleeva, who is 68, claimed that she is working as a journalist. Igor Kokorev, the couple's son, worked as an attorney at a prestigious law firm in Madrid.
The couple operated via a straw company called Blue Horizon whose "offices" were in their apartment in the heart of the upscale neighborhood that is well protected by Spain's national police due to the many embassies in the area. The family's activities were discovered in 2007 when one of the newspapers in Spain published reports on transfers of funds from Equatorial Guinea to another straw company, Kalunga, owned by the family. But until recently the family was not investigated, allegedly due to lack of interest by the Spanish police and court system.
The couple continued their activities from 2007 until recently, when the anti-corruption prosecutor's office completed a secret investigation of them. The office is seeking a punishment of at least six years in prison and a fine of 550 million euros for the couple and their children.
A report by the OCCRP from 2018 revealed that the couple was in contact with Ukrainian arms dealers, including Vladimir Yevdokimov who was accused in 2015 of smuggling Kh-55 cruise missiles to Iran.