A MASS corruption swoop has led to dozens of arrests in the Comunidad Valenciana after town and provincial councils and the regional government offices were raided.
One of the suspects is Alfonso Rus, who was head of Valencia provincial council – the Diputación de Valencia – between 2007 and last summer.
Former directors of the now-defunct CAM bank, which was sold to Banco Sabadell for €1, are among those taken into custody.
Investigations started in 2014 after the Valencia branch of United Left, EUPV, reported a suspected money-laundering racket behind the closed doors of the public-sector company Imelsa, whose managing director Marcos Benavent has been detained.
Imelsa deals with promoting, supporting and participating in financial, business and social activities in the province of Valencia aimed at contributing to socio-economic development in the area, and its work is entirely taxpayer-funded.
Benavent was accused of setting up a 'front' company called Berceo Maintenance which billed another five firms who, in turn, were paid by Imelsa – all for jobs which were completely fake.
The cash was split out into illegal commission, or backhanders, one of the recipients of which was thought to be Rus.
Less than two years ago, a video went viral in which Rus and Benavent were sitting in a car whilst the former counted out bank notes out loud, and was caught on tape as saying: “One, two, 2,000, 3,000...and 12,000 euros. Two million pesetas.”
The then mayor of Xàtiva (Valencia province) was suspended from his post at the head of the Diputación and from his membership of the PP party when the now-ex regional president Alberto Fabra took over.
Benavent, although he is not one of the PP members arrested today (Tuesday), has been charged and has had to report to the anti-corruption prosecution service several times since May last year, whilst companies he was in contact with – including firms supplying and fitting astroturf, indoor swimming pools and paddle-tennis courts – have been investigated.
Inquiries have also centred on the PP head office in Valencia city hall – now run by the left-wing party Compromís – in connection with former PP councillor María José Alcón, who is thought to have earned backhanders in 2005 and 2006 linked to Valencia's trade fair centre, and also in connection with the Club Olímpic sports centre in Xàtiva which Rus was chairman of from 2006 until last year.
The Jaume II Foundation and the public-sector company CIEGSA, which specialises in building schools, have been investigated.
Police have embargoed 150 top-of-the-range cars and frozen 252 bank accounts, as well as searching town halls in Castellón, Dénia and Muro d'Alcoi (Alicante province), Alicante city, Valencia city and 12 others in the province of Valencia.
All the arrested parties are current or former members of the right-wing PP party and are said to have taken advantage of their political roles or their positions in taxpayer-funded public-sector companies to earn 'underground' commission in exchange for fraudulent public works contracts.
Those arrested and under investigation include María José Alcón, who was consultant to Valencia's ex-mayoress Rita Barberá and is married to former deputy mayor Alfonso Grau – one of the suspects in the Nóos Institute embezzlement case involving King Felipe's brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarín – along with Rus' former office manager and ex-mayor of Genovès (Valencia province), Emilio Llopis, who is currently consultant to the PP in the Diputación de Valencia, plus Máximo Carturla, former CIEGSA director and regional education secretary, and ex-deputy chairman of the Diputación who resigned from his post in May after being heard talking to Benavent about earning backhanders from assigning public works contracts.
Mari Carmen García Fuster, PP secretary at Valencia city hall since 1991; former regional education secretary and ex-MP for the regional government PP party David Serra, who is also charged in connection with the long-running Gürtel corruption case; former manager of the Jaume II El Just Foundation and ex-husband of María José Alcón, Vicente Burgos; and Juan José Medina, one-time deputy chair of the Diputación and now consultant to the PP in the same council along with Emilio Llopis, as well as ex-mayor of Moncada (Valencia), have also been taken into custody.
In total, 24 have been arrested and another five 'helping with inquiries', as the new wording of the Law of Criminal Judgment refers to people once classed as having been 'charged'.
One of those 'helping with inquiries' is Valencia city hall PP spokesman and successor to Rita Barberá, Alfonso Novo.
Power-dealing, misuse of public funds, and money-laundering are among the offences the 29 may have to stand trial for.