PP’s “champion” cause turns against it

Galicia premier’s role in public corruption scandal may be bigger than thought

Businsessman José Antonio Espiñeira after testifying Tuesday before the Supreme Court.
Businsessman José Antonio Espiñeira after testifying Tuesday before the Supreme Court. E. NARANJO (EFE)

The government corruption case that broke early last year in Galicia, in which the Popular Party (PP) tried to ensnare former Socialist Public Works Minister José Blanco, appears to have entangled two of the conservative party’s own figures.

Surveillance recordings that form part of the so-called Operation Champion case and are part of a judge’s investigation, now unsealed, establish that the main defendant in the case, businessman Jorge Dorribo, allegedly paid off former PP regional deputy Pablo Cobián to set up meetings with conservative regional premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

Dorribo, a former pharmaceutical company owner, was trying to obtain permits for his businesses. He originally told a Supreme Court investigating justice that he had paid Blanco to help him hasten the paperwork so he could get necessary health and other permits for his ventures. Blanco, the former number two in the Socialist Party, served during the previous administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Blanco, who is from Galicia, had always denied receiving a payoff, but acknowledged that he had met with Dorribo to talk about the permits.

Dorribo’s evidence turned out to be a napkin from a hotel in Andorra with some figures scribbled on it. The indicted Galician businessman claims he deposited the money for Blanco in a bank account located in the tiny principality. Also backing Blanco was Dorribo’s former business partner, Carlos Monjero, who testified before Justice José Ramón Soriano on Wednesday. Monjero, a former CEO at Proitec, said the 150,000 euros that Dorribo deposited in Andorra was to pay off debts his partner owed for a pharmacy he owned in the principality.

All of the businessmen that Dorribo has mentioned in his sworn statement until now have denied that they have any knowledge of payoffs to Blanco.

But Dorribo, who has been indicted on charges of corruption and defrauding a public program, met with Feijóo on October 14, 2010, months before he received a 2.9-million-euro loan and a regional grant — partly paid for with European Union funds — worth almost one million euros from the Galician government’s credit institute, Igape.

Feijóo accepts that the meeting took place but explained that the encounter was only to go over the logistical details of a project Dorribo had proposed to supply the region’s health system with medicines, including generics. However, phone taps by an anti-corruption police squad on conversations between Cobián and Dorribo paint a different picture. Cobián had telephoned the businessman later that day to find out how the meeting with Feijóo went.

Jorge Dorribo. I spoke to him about the Igape matter. He had already taken it down ... he said that he will handle that matter.

Pablo Cobián. Very good.

J. D. In any case, we have to be on top of him. Do you understand me?

P.C. Don’t worry, I am on top of Joaquín [Varela, director of Igape, who is also indicted for influence peddling].

Dorribo let his close associates know that he had Feijóo under his control. But when the money was delayed, telephone taps show that more pressure was put on Varela.

“Not one more penny for Cobián”

EL PAÍS, Madrid

In several phone conversations, police found out that Jorge Dorribo threatened to cut off all payoffs to former Popular Party regional lawmaker Pablo Cobián because he appeared to be dragging his feet in helping him with contacts inside the Galician government.

In one excerpt, Dorribo is heard discussing with his partner Carlos Monjero the problems he is having getting financing for his businesses.

Carlos Monjero. Fuck, I don't know... Joaquín is a strange one. That's the problem... you have to grease his palm but I am not going to do it ... and don't you do it either... The one who was supposed to do it was Pablo Cobián... That's why I called him to invite to lunch, but you know how that is...

Jorge Dorribo. Well, that's too bad for him... he doesn't get one penny. I already dished out 6,000 euros... do you hear me? This is shameful... but I am going to wait. I am going to speak to Núnez Feijóo. In fact, I am going over there on Monday.

C. M. It's Igape's fault.

J. D. Yeah, but Pablo Cobián... not one fucking penny more. Hmm? Not one more fucking penny. No man, because if you are going to start to act that way... don't even do the fucking job you are asked to do... go back on your word... then you don't have one excuse to give, not one.

The delay in the supply of money also got Cobián nervous.

P. C. Good morning Jorge. Listen, about that favor... I can get it done for you this morning?

J. D. Okay, okay okay.

P. C. Okay, I will call you as soon as I find out something, okay?

J. D. Okay, okay, okay. Very good, boss.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS