OPERATION POKEMON

Police chief arrested in widening Galician corruption probe

Mayor of Ourense refuses to step down despite being stripped of Socialist Party membership

The chief of police in Ourense is the latest suspect to be arrested in an anti-corruption sweep that began last week in several cities and towns in Galicia. Abelardo Ulloa was taken into custody on Tuesday by customs agents who turned him over to a judge investigating an alleged kickback-for-contract scheme involving a host of public and elected officials.

Ourense’s Socialist Mayor Francisco Rodríguez and the Popular Party (PP) Mayor of Boqueixón, Adolfo Gacio, were among 13 suspects arrested last Thursday as a result of the police’s so-called Operation Pokemon.

Rodríguez, who refuses to step down as mayor even though he has been stripped of his Socialist party membership, said that he will leave the decision on whether he should resign to the citizens of Ourense. He remains free on bail but with pending charges of bribery and dereliction of public duty.

“If you want to know the truth, my heart tells me to go home to stop this tension that’s affecting me and my family. But the citizens of Ourense gave me their trust and support to govern this city, and they are my first, second, and third priorities. I am faithful to my party, but more so to my citizens,” Rodríguez said in an interview with EL PAÍS.

I am faithful to my party, but more so to my citizens”

Meanwhile, Gacio, who has been Boqueixón’s mayor for 21 years, said that he was willing to step aside but insisted on keeping his town council seat. “I am totally innocent of all the charges that were filed against me, and I can assure you that all contracts that have been awarded were legal,” he said.

The Ourense chief of police’s arrest came after Judge Pilar de Lara, who is leading the investigation, took a statement from Francisco Fernández Liñares, a former president of Hydrographic Miño-Sil, who reportedly implicated a host of businessmen in the alleged payoff scheme. Fernández Liñares, a Socialist, was denied bail after he testified for 10 hours on Monday.

He is the second suspect that was unable to avoid jail. Judge De Lara also denied bail to Gervasio Rolando Rodríguez, the manager of the Vendex Group, a company that won a lot of contracts throughout Galicia and is the focus of the inquiry.

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