Mayor of Zurgena and 24 more charged in urban corruption case
It has been 15 months since Guardia Civil officers swooped on the sleepy little town of Zurgena, arresting the mayor and several other people. During the operation they closed the town hall and the offices of several promoters in the area, seizing computers and documents. The case has been ongoing, and yesterday evening the investigating Judge announced the results.
The investigating judge has identified nine separate counts of abuse of public office (prevariacación), bribery of a public official, crimes against the planning process, falsification of documents, carrying out of actions prohibited of an elected official, selling of favors and public disobedience.
He therefore has allowed charges to stand and the public prosecutor has ten days to state their case for a preliminary hearing which may take place in the Provincial Courts. However, the full case is not expected to be heard until the end of the year at earliest.
Under Spanish court rules, an Investigating Judge directs a police investigation. If the Judge is satisfied that a crime may have been committed, the file is handed to the Public Prosecutor (Fiscalía) and sent to a different court for trial. If the Judge does not believe there to be sufficient evidence for a case he can “archive” the case and stop proceedings.
Defense lawyers for all 25 charged people say they are optimistic about the trial. When asked about the famous secret recordings taken by police officers, they said that in their opinion these tapes would not be admissible in court due to the poor sound quality. At least one lawyer intends to make a complaint of entrapment.
The Judge’s charges against Mayor Cándido states that he may be guilty of “allowing illegal building licenses to be approved through the process of silencio administrativo” (when a public administration does not reply to a request for a license, allowing the applicant to assume that permission has been granted) and “and bribery by building five detached villas in Los Menchones, these buildings being constructed by promoters who in turn gave the Mayor a consideration for his approval of the construction works”. He is also accused of falsifying documents, as according to the Judge “he certified the antiquity of a house when it was obvious it had been built subsequent to the claimed date”.
Manuel Tijeras, Councillor for Urbanisation, is accused of “signing documents allowing the segregation of land for building on rustic land” and for “granting building licenses knowing full well that the projects did not comply with building regulations and / or were on rustic land”. He is also accused of using a luxury vehicle owned by a well known local builder, Antonio López, for whom the prosecution claims he was “working undercover while in the townhall” as well as amounts of money in exchange for building licenses, granted with the justification of (non existent) favorable reports and signed off by the Mayor with false antiquity reports (which would allow them to be granted escrituras).
Eight former and current councillors of the P.A. and PSOE parties (between 2003 and 2007 the Partido Andalucista ruled in a coalition with the PSOE local party) have been charged, along with several tecnicos and public officials from the townhall, and the heads of several building companies, namely: Tomás Zurano (Zuydi), Antonio Lopez (Procosona) and Francisco Javier (New Medina Villas).
Four civil servants from the town hall are among those charged, accused of different crimes relating to them issuing false reports or documents, as well as two architects who worked for both the townhall and builders. The Secretary of the townhall has been charged, as has a tecnico who also had an interest in New Medina Villas.
Other companies involved in the trial, which belonged to the people charged as subsidiaries of the three main companies, were Dizu (owned by Tomás Zurano), Solanor, Welcome to Spanish Home, Procosona and Colyar.
The shape of the trial, and the expected timescale, will not be known until later this month after an initial oral hearing at Huercal Overa. The case is expected to be sent to the Provincial Audience and it is expected that all 25 people will be trialled at the same time in a joint case.
The case gives a nasty feeling of small town politics where everybody is related to everybody else and a web of deceit and corruption was woven, all in order to build as many homes as possible without having to worry too much about the permits. Is this feeling true? Well, owners of the estimated 6,000 illegal homes in the area may be excused for jumping to conclusions, but only time -and Spanish Justice- will tell the truth.
Full list of charges:
-Candido Trabalón: abuse of office, bribery, abuse of urban planning and forgery
-Pedro María Soto: Bribery
-José Juan Sánchez: abuse of urban planning rights
-Juan Morales: abuse of urban planning rights
-José A. Ramos: abuse of urban planning
-Emilia Jimenez: abuse of urban planning
-Aniceto López: abuse of urban planning
-Manuel Tijeras: abuse of office, bribery and forgery
-Miguel Marín: abuse of urban planning
-Tomás Zurano: Bribery, buying of favours and abuse of urban planning
-Josefa Sanchez: abuse of urban planning
-Pedro Segura: abuse of urban planning
-Trinidad Lidueña: abuse of urban planning
-Francisco Díez: Bribery and prohibited negotiations
Juan José Galera: Crimes against ordering of the territory.
Francisco Nortes: Crimes against ordering of the territory.
José M. Nortes: Crimes against ordering of the territory.
Faustino Mellado: Crimes against ordering of the territory and disobedience.
Adoración Gómez: Crimes against ordering of the territory.
Antonio López: Crimes against ordering of the territory and bribery.
Carlos Berbel: Prohibited activities and abuse of office.
José M. Garcia: Crimes against ordering of the territory.
Fco. Salvador: Prohibited activities
José M. Diaz: Crimes against ordering of the territory.
Miguel Marín: Abuse of power in the planning process.