The Catalan company Eliminalia has made millions of euros in the last decade by cleaning up the online digital image and reputation of hundreds of convicted and investigated people in 54 countries for corruption, money laundering, sexual abuse, and drug trafficking.
This has been proven by an investigation by the organisation Forbidden Stories, in which more than 20 media outlets participated, including EL PAÍS, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and Haaretz. The investigation reveals the company’s use of disinformation to erase digital content and clean up online image. The use of fake websites or the fraudulent use of intellectual property laws are its main weapons.
The report highlights the use of disinformation tactics. This includes sending requests to search engines and web hosting companies, claiming false copyright violations. And also flooding the internet with ad hoc news stories that bury undesirable content. Eliminalia has used these and other tactics to erase or obscure information about its clients’ past. Clients include politicians, drug traffickers, sexual abusers, white-collar criminals, and struggling entrepreneurs.
A web of 600 websites and 774 clients
The rates paid by clients range from €500 to €400,000. However, this depends on the complexity of the content to be erased or obscured. Eliminalia uses a web of 600 websites to accomplish its goals. The company has bases in 12 countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and the US. Its headquarters was previously located in Kyiv but was moved to Tbilisi, Georgia in February 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Founded in 2013 by Diego (Dídac) Sánchez Jiménez, the company has expanded rapidly under the direction of its strategist, José María Hill Prados. With 774 clients, Spain is Eliminalia’s main market, followed by Italy, Mexico, the UK, and Colombia. The report is part of the Story killers project, which examines the disinformation industry.
Relevant clients in Spain
El País gives examples of the most relevant Spanish clients of the company. Amongst whom are Adrian de la Goya, a businessman linked to the retired commissioner José Manuel Villarejo and splashed in corruption scandals such as the Gürtel case, El Pequeño Nicolás or the Lezo plot. He paid €16,000 to make 13 news outlets such as publico.es or vozpopuli.com disappear. The articles denounced his relationship with Villarejo and former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas and his ties to builder Francisco Hernando, better known as Paco, El Pocero.
Former CiU deputy and senator and former member of the General Council of the Judiciary, Ramon Camp I Batalla, paid €7,380 to hide or make news disappear.