Panamanian attorney Ismael Gerli does not let go of his clients easily. As soon as Vladimir Kokorev, a Spanish businessman of Russian-Jewish origins refused to continue working with Panamanian law firm Gelri&Co, of which Ismael Gelri is the principal partner, the life of Mr. Kokorev and his family has turned into an authentic nightmare.
Ismael Gerli replied to the termination letter with an offer to pay him a hefty sum of 300,000 USD in concept of severance as well as for “future services yet to be determined”. When Vladimir Kokorev declined the kind offer, the angry lawyer reacted with a barrage of grotesque e-mails directed at his former client as well as other members of his family. Among other, unprintable insults, Gerli refers to Mr. Kokorev, his wife and their two sons, as “Russian mafia” and “filthy Jews”, accuses them of plotting to kill him, claims to know all their secrets which he promises to share with US and Spanish authorities, and doesn’t forget to mention that everything will be forgiven if they follow his instructions and deposit 300,000 on his account.
According to the sources within the family, their reaction was of disbelief and incredulity – since Ismael Gerli did not have any relation to the shipping business of Vladimir Kokorev and was only in charge of the legal custody of his companies and several residential properties in Panama City. “I thought that he [Gerli] had simply gone crazy, and nobody would listen to him,” Mr. Kokorev said in later interview to Panamanian journalists.
However, it appears that someone did listen to Mr. Gerli. In summer, Gelri took a trip to Spain where he presented a declaration against his former client, accusing the whole family of money laundering – and offering his own testimony as a key witness. In September, Mr. Kokorev (mother’s maiden name – Levi), his wife Yulia and their son Igor were arrested in Panama on orders of a Spanish judge and were later extradited to Spain.
The arrests took place on September 7th. On September 10th and 11th, while the Kokorev family was still in custody, Ismael Gerli took possession of their apartments and office, and faked a number of documents to put these properties onto his own name. In all probability, Ismael Gerli did not expect for his former clients to ever show up at their properties again and to find out that those belonged to him now. However, since the Kokorevs opted for abbreviated extradition process – with the purpose of clearing their names in Spanish courts as soon as possible – they were granted a bail in Panama. To their utter surprise, when they tried to return to their apartments, they found out that the locks were changed, and the management informed them that they were mere tenants of Ismael Gerli, that their leases were terminated and their personal possessions removed by the “landlord”.
Before their extradition, Mr. Kokorev and his son promptly filed charges against Ismael Gerli for embezzlement.
As soon as the Panamanian courts admitted the criminal charges against Gerli, the Panamanian attorney contacted Mr. Kokorev’s elder son, also named Vladimir, and offered him yet another deal. Ismael would not testify against Vladimir’s parents and brother. In exchange, Vladimir would ask the Panamanian prosecutors to withdraw the cases against Gerli and, of course, will not forget to transfer $300,000 onto Gerli’s account.
This new “offer”, documented in an e-mail, is again peppered with insults, crass anti-Semitic remarks and picturesque expressions such us “your father will die in jail” and “your children will never see their grandfather again”.
Even though Gerli’s communications and copies of charges against him have been immediately delivered to Spanish authorities, Vladimir Kokorev, his wife Yulia and his son Igor have remained in Spanish prison for already over a month. No charges have been presented against them, and any facts pertaining to the investigation remain under court secret, and have not been disclosed to their attorneys.
Why the Spanish court was so eager to accept a testimony of a vengeful and clearly mentally imbalanced lawyer and took such an extreme action against the whole family? Why the whole family, in which nobody has a criminal record, has been arrested and thrown in jail with no prior citation? Why Gerli, who had proven himself as extortionist and embezzler, is claiming to be a “protected witness”?
“By the way that my family has been treated by the Spanish legal system, it seems that Gerli feels fully entitled to express his xenophobia and anti-Semitism even in written,” says Mr. Kokorev’s son.
This is not the first time that Kokorev family faces problems in Spain. Seven years ago, several Spanish journalists accused Mr. Kokorev of money laundering for the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang. The accusations were never confirmed and later proved to be defamatory by several court decisions.
Some of Vladimir Kokorev’s business activities indeed took place in Equatorial Guinea, an African country which relations with Spain can be only described as uneasy, due to the fact that Guinea is a former Spanish colony. Spain granted independence to Equatorial Guinea in the late sixties, and for many years has neglected any serious diplomatic relations, although renewed its interest in the former colony several decades ago, after the African country became one of the world largest oil exporters. Spanish attempts to benefit from Guinean oil exports have not been fruitful.
Kokorev was not involved in the oil business, but in the years 1997-2000 owned a shipping company Kalunga SA that operated in Guinea, which Spanish press has referred to as a “ghost” company, despite the fact that hundreds of former crewmembers of Kalunga have repeatedly addressed the media in defense of their employer.