After Judge Montserrat Peña lifted the secreto de sumario on almost all of the El Ejido townhall corruption case on Monday (Caso Poniente – the one where the mayor, Juan Enciso, and his mates are accused of stealing 150 million euros? That’s right, the man still in charge? Remember?) local newspapers have been full of the charges and suppositions. It’s mind blowing stuff.
The Prosecutor charges that six local families, plus a chap called Abengoa, basically ran the town of El Ejido as their own personal kingdom, using the townhall credit cards to buy their stuff, townhall workers to fix their homes and run errands, townhall funds to keep their lifestyle lavish. Some of these charges are insane. For example, José Alemán purchased (townhall funds) and installed (townhall plumber) in his luxury home a 600€ toilet. Juan Enciso had his cortijo completely revamped and painted by townhall workers. One fellow got the townhall to purchase, install and maintain all the irrigation pipes for his son’s farm. etc.
A PAL spokesman (PAL is Juan Enciso’s personal political party, the one which runs El Ejido) said that if the best the papers could find were evidence of a townhall plumber fixing a leak on a Sunday, then obviously the whole case has been, as Enciso has always claimed, simply been blown out of proportion. Not quite, sunny.
Police searches of Amate and Alemán’s homes alone found jewels worth over 300,000€ “lying about”, including a 45,000€ brooch and three Phillipe Patek watches valued at 15,000€ each.
It seems that a great deal of the proof is being provided by a couple of townhall employees who were required to falsify the invoices to pay all of this. Although the ringleaders did order him to destroy much of the proof when the investigation commenced, one brave employee – protected by police at the moment- kept copies of everything that was being shredded and passed it over to the investigators. A number of townhall and ElSur workers have come forwards to testify how they were made to work late one several occasions falsifying receipts, invoices and stock levels in advance of regular tax and Junta investigations.
Police have confirmed that a number of witnesses in the case have been given police protection in case of reprisals.
Elsur, the municipal services company at the heart of the scandal, appears to have been as corrupt as any third world African nation. One townhall auditor has claimed he was “forced” to pass bills from Elsur that, under closer scrutiny, claimed that Elsur cleaned the town’s sport pavilion 33 hours a day every day of the year. Another technique was to charge for the use of fictitious cleaning machines.
A sign of just how much contempt Enciso has for the system is that his personal tax return, every year, seemed to show that he was entitled for a refund. He has told the court that this appears to be a genuine error.
The honorary consul of Costa Rica has been called as a witness in the case, and been required to give evidence with the Prosecutor claims shows that Gálan, one of the businessman involved in the case, was funneling black money made from the thefts into south American companies. The consul has provided evidence proving that Galán had wired 100,000 US dollars to Costa Rica via the embassy to participate in a land deal, but that when the embassy heard of the arrests in the town it seized the money and returned it to Gálans (then frozen) bank account. The consul is not charged with any wrong doing in the case.
So far, sixty people have been charged with offenses in the case. A number of them, including the ringleaders, remain in jail after a judge agreed that they were a flight risk. Juan Enciso himself was eventually released from jail as the rest of the townhall couldn’t be arsed to fire him as mayor – meaning he had to run El Ejido from a Granada jail, a situation that a judge eventually agreed was ridiculous, and gave him bail.
Meanwhile, ElSur workers remain on strike as they haven’t been paid for months (the company has said that it’s broke and can’t afford to pay their wages because the townhall won’t pay their bills, the townhall says that it’s the Junta’s fault, etc etc etc). Also, quite cold and hungry as well, as some of them pointed out – it’s no weather for a 24hour vigil outside the townhall.