PP deputy resigns after being caught up in alleged blackmail attempt

Santiago Cervera claims to have been set up in case involving Caja Navarra bank president

Santiago Cervera announces his resignation in Congress on Monday.
Santiago Cervera announces his resignation in Congress on Monday.ÁLVARO GARCÍA (EL PAÍS)

One of the Popular Party’s congressional deputies for Madrid, Santiago Cervera, resigned from his post on Monday after being detained for his alleged implication in a case of blackmail involving the president of the Caja Navarra bank, José Antonio Asiáin.

Cervera explained that his resignation was based primarily on his intention to face any possible charges through regular channels, given that his status as a deputy would grant him immunity in lower-level courts.

What’s more, he added that “these complicated circumstances, which have been surprising for some, should not have any negative effect on a party that has so generously taken me in.” Prior to joining the Popular Party, Cervera was a member of the Navarrese People’s Union (UPN), a conservative grouping close to the PP.

The president of Caja Navarra reported a case of attempted blackmail to the Civil Guard on Wednesday. On Sunday morning, Cervera was arrested for his alleged involvement in the plan, and was released after making a statement, the Diario de Navarra reported.

Asiáin apparently claimed that an unknown person demanded the payment of 25,000 euros in exchange for keeping quiet about sensitive information regarding his work at a firm of lawyers. The Civil Guard then set up a unit in the area where the anonymous person had demanded that the money be left, leaving an envelope in the location as bait.

It was there that PP politician Santiago Cervera appeared, and was subsequently arrested by the officers.

Speaking to EL PAÍS, Cervera claimed that he was the victim of a set-up.

Writing on his blog, the PP politician explained that a few days ago he received an email offering him information about Caja Navarra, which would be left in the same place as specified in the other email to the bank boss as the drop-off point for the cash. While Cervera said that he did not think that this was the right way to go about obtaining such information, he admitted he was “curious,” and on arriving at the location “saw that there was a package that apparently contained documents. I picked it up, which is when a number of Civil Guard agents appeared and asked me to identify myself.

“I have, without a doubt, committed a reckless act, and the consequences are there for all to see. The issue has political and legal aspects. I am very sorry for the damage I am causing my party,” he said on his blog.

Speaking on Monday on announcing his resignation as both a deputy and PP party member, Cervera said: “I am innocent of whatever they might accuse me of. I have committed no offences, nor have I blackmailed or threatened anyone, I have become a victim of what I may be charged with and I believe I know the reasons for which I have been chosen as a victim.”

Cervera said he would not be going into more details, given that in his opinion, he will soon have to explain what he believes has happened in the courts.

The politician said that his decision was “an act of political integrity, because it is right that we show that we are not bound to our posts.”

“I have not felt victim of a lack of support on the part of the PP’S general secretary,” he added, despite the occupant of that post, María Dolores de Cospedal, having announced that an investigation had been opened on Cervera after his arrest by the Civil Guard in Pamplona.

According to the party, the aim of the investigation is to “clear up and find out exactly what happened.” The case has caused “surprise” and “astonishment,” according to De Cospedal.

“Without making any judgment on the facts, because we are unable to do so, the PP wants to know all the information available, and from there, if the seriousness of the facts is proven, we will take the appropriate steps, both in the parliamentary sense and in terms of the party,” De Cospedal said Monday during a press conference.

The president of Caja Navarra said that for now he would not be retracting the extortion complaint. He said that he has “no information that leads him to believe or disbelieve [Cervera’s] version of events.” He added that Cervera’s lawyer called on him to drop the charges, and said that he had once had a solid relationship with the PP politician, who used to be a board member of the bank while in the Navarre regional government. However, that relationship deteriorated given Cervera’s criticism of the management of the bank.

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