In the midst of the explosion of drug trafficking in Galicia, a large family in the pure style of the Sicilian mafia took a step forward to have a name and power among the South American cocaine cartels. Using the methods and brutality of the Italian godfathers, the Los Charlines clan emerged in the seventies when Manuel Charlín, together with his two younger brothers, created the identity card of this powerful and unrepeatable organization, now dismantled, which began with the succulent business of tobacco smuggling. Died in 2022 at the age of 89 after spending a quarter of his life in prison, the patriarch has left his children and grandchildren an inheritance poisoned with dozens of trials and prison sentences for drug trafficking and money laundering. Six of them and four alleged front men face another trial starting this Thursday for laundering more than 15 million euros through companies and money, using commercial companies with branches in Galicia, Switzerland and China.
The clan fell into disgrace in 1995, when former judge of the National Court Baltasar Garzón ordered the seizure of all his assets that were in the name of the family and which was then valued at more than 30 million euros, without counting the part that has remained hidden and partially emerged more than a decade later. Charlín had been acquitted of the Operation Nécora trial and managed to reinforce his patriarchy by delegating to his daughter Josefa, with primary education, who inherited the iron command methods of her father. She to the point of being involved in the murder of the clan’s reference transporter, Manuel Baúlo, and having left his quadriplegic wife, when he decided to confess the stashes of cocaine that he transported for Los Charlines. Finally, none of the four hitmen hired on her salary testified in the trial against her.
Due to this first money laundering process, the family went through a long trial that ended up being a via crucis for the courts. When Los Charlines’ appeal reached the Supreme Court, the ruling handed down in May 2008 was devastating for the Prosecutor’s Office, since it allowed the clan to recover a part of the assets by ordering their seizure and not confiscation. The high court interpreted that the ruling of the National Court was imprecise by not specifying the origin of the money used in multiple operations with which the group acquired more than 30 properties in Spain and Portugal, 15 companies, canning companies, nine mussel farms, a winning lottery and 44 bank accounts, some located in Morocco.
The defense of Los Charlines argued that not all of the family’s money was of illegal origin and stuck to the expression used by the representative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office when he presented his final report: “With money coming, in whole or in part, from trafficking.” of drugs, the accused formed a vast estate.” Thus, the Supreme Court based its interpretation on this phrase to cast doubt on the confiscation of assets prior to the 1990s.
Despite the judicial setback that led to the confiscation of striking properties such as the Vista Real manor (acquired by the Vilanova City Council in 2010 through public auction for more than one million euros), Los Charlines, through Teresa Charlín (acquitted by the Supreme) managed to recover other assets and seafood businesses, even bidding through front men. All of this despite the fact that they had not yet paid the million-dollar compensation to the State for money laundering crimes and ratified by the High Court.
The family’s new challenges led to the opening of another court case and the second arrest of practically the entire clan in 2010. But in the dock of the trial that is now starting for those crimes there are already three casualties: Manuel Charlín, his wife Josefa Pomares and his son Manuel, who died in 2019. The target of the confiscation is a treatment plant in A Illa de Arousa and almost two million euros that the clan would have paid for the purchase of a canning factory in China. In addition, there are three accounts in the Clariden Bank, in Switzerland, with a balance of 2.3 million euros. Two are in the name of Josefa Charlín and her brother Óscar and her daughter Noemí are representatives. Two apartments and parking spaces appear in the inventory of the Tax Agency.
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After evading several arrest warrants for seven years, Josefa was arrested in her refuge in Portugal in 2001 and sentenced for drug trafficking and money laundering to 32 years in prison, but she only served 11 of them as she benefited from a recasting of her sentences and her prison record. . Now, Josefa returns to the bench with her brothers, Teresa, Óscar, Melchor, as well as her daughter Noemí Outón and her niece Natalia Somoza. The sentence faced by Josefa, her daughter, and her brother Oscar is six years in prison and a fine of 12 million euros, while for Melchor and Teresa, the Prosecutor’s Office is asking for five years in prison and 10 million euros each. . The second accused granddaughter of Charlín, Teresa’s daughter, faces a request for a sentence of five years and a fine of 10 million.
Four others prosecuted for allegedly participating in the clan’s businesses are advisors Ramón Rodríguez Paz, Roberto Adán, José Tato Arca and lawyer Santiago Do Campo. The Prosecutor’s Office demands five years in prison and a 10 million euro fine for each of them. All of them have no criminal records.
The unusual survival of the clan
The investigation of the so-called Operation Repesca confirms that the clan managed a fortune despite the fact that it was believed to be bankrupt, after accumulating several judicial proceedings and long periods in prison for almost all of its members. In addition, they have proven a flagrant crime of price alteration in public tenders and auctions committed by members of the group. “Using the power that Los Charlines maintain in the area, the family’s front men and lawyers also allegedly appeared at punt auctions to buy them, after putting pressure on the neighbors not to bid for them,” the investigators point out.
This latest attempt to recover the properties of the powerful drug family has its roots in the ruling that the Supreme Court handed down 16 years ago and which could not prevent it from being partially favorable to the interests of the clan. Thus, while the court looked closely at whether all or part of the money that Los Charlines used for years to build their empire was from the sale of cocaine or hashish, the ruling alluded to “the knowledge that necessarily had to exist in the Arousa region of the involvement of different members of the Charlín family and the serious scandal that occurred among its population, given the awareness of the entire area regarding the problems that the increasingly widespread use of narcotics brings for many families. This set of things leads us to the conclusion that everyone knew that specific origin of the drug trafficking that was being handled.”
But these conclusions were not sufficient arguments to dispel reasonable doubt about whether all or part of the clan’s money had its origin in drug trafficking, although the court was clear who the protagonists were. Manuel Charlín is defined as the “intellectual leader” of money laundering, but only he had his sentence reduced from 15 to 13 years and he was freed from one of the three tax crimes (less fine to pay and more properties that he could recover). . And regarding her daughter Josefa, the Supreme Court magistrates also had no doubts when they concluded that “she is one of the protagonists of this organized plot”, but they confirmed the sentence of the National Court of 15 years in prison and a fine of 5.7 million euros.
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