The Socialist mayor of Sabadell, a city in Barcelona province, has been officially named as a target in a corruption investigation for allegedly charging three-percent commissions in exchange for awarding city contracts.
Mayor Manuel Bustos was named as a suspect on Tuesday along with 26 other people, including construction businessman Melquiades Garrido and Popular Party (PP) councilor Jordi Soriano. The Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra police force arrested 12 people and carried out 41 searches at different public offices and private firms.
The police arrived at City Hall at around 10am, according to sources. Besides local politicians, a group of lawyers and local businessmen is also under the court inquiry. The Mossos also conducted a search of city offices in Montcada i Reixac, also in Barcelona province, according to sources.
In a statement, anti-corruption prosecutors said those who wanted to do business with the city had to pay up front 120,000 euros – a price tag that could then increase depending on the size of the contract awarded. Contractors never saw this “down payment” ever again and the money was divided between politicians and government officials.
Once the project was completed, the contractors had to pay three percent in kickbacks on the total cost, the prosecutors said.
Speaking to reporters at City Hall, Bustos denied any wrongdoing and asked the courts to clear his name as soon as possible. “I want to be clear with Sabadell, Catalonia, our families, our colleagues and the citizens: their mayor and his government has always acted with honesty, strictness and transparency,” he said.
There were immediate calls from the Popular Party in Catalonia (PPC) for Bustos to step down.