"I am certain I will be acquitted"

Santiago Cervera resigned as a deputy on Monday after being caught up in a blackmail case

Former politician Santiago Cervera.
Former politician Santiago Cervera. CRISTÓBAL MANUEL (EL PAÍS)

The day he gave up his congressional seat, Santiago Cervera explained in his blog that he had recently received an electronic mail advising him that there were some "papers" regarding Caja Navarra savings bank and a judicial investigation that he should examine. "I responded: this isn't the manner in which you should inform me about such things," he wrote on Monday.

"I was in Pamplona yesterday on personal business so I was curious to find out more about the information that they told me they had left me at a certain place. When I went to find the papers, several Civil Guard officers approached me and asked me to identify myself. I was taken before the judge on duty, who heard my version of the events and let me go."

Cervera, a Popular Party (PP) deputy, stepped down the day after he was charged Sunday in an undercover investigation regarding an alleged blackmail attempt against Caja Navarra president José Antonio Asiáin.

According to the charges filed by Asiáin, someone sent the Caja Navarra president an email demanding 25,000 euros or else the informer would release information that he purportedly was charging the savings bank with attorney's fees from his private law firm.

Why Cervera had gone to pick up the papers isn't clear. "Those who know me know that I have been very critical of the goings-on at the savings bank," he wrote in his blog. At a press conference on Wednesday, Asiáin said that he didn't want to pass judgment on the 47-year-old Cervera, nor did he want to conclude that it was the former PP deputy who attempted to blackmail him.

Saying that he was surprised by Cervera's actions, the savings bank president explained that the PP deputy should have gone to the Civil Guard as he had on December 5.

"If he received an email telling him that they were going to give him incriminating papers about Caja Navarra that could be used in a judicial investigation, why didn't he go to the Civil Guard or tell someone in his party? I am not judging anyone; I am only speaking the facts," Asiáin said.

Cervera had been very critical of the savings bank's operations, including of certain situations regarding its bailout by the government. Later, in an interview with La Sexta television network, the Pamplona native explained that he was the victim of a set up.

"I don't know whose idea it was to set me up, but of course, I know all the people who are involved in this case," he said, without referring to Asiáin by name.

Cervera said that his resignation could be interpreted as a "thanks, but no thanks" to politics. While the PP has turned a cold shoulder on him, Cervera said that he feels reinforced by the messages of support that he has received since his arrest.

"I am certain that I will come out stronger after they hear my version, and that I will be acquitted. But at the same time I feel that I should take another route in life and dedicate myself to other things," he told La Sexta.

Cervera got into politics at a very early age while he was still a student at the University of Comillas. During this time, he was elected to the Pamplona City Council. In 1995, the Navarrese People's Union (UPN) nominated him as its candidate for mayor in a race he lost. From 1996 to 2003, he served as health commissioner for Navarre during regional premier Miguel Sanz's administration. In 2008 he was elected deputy representing Navarre under a UPN-PP coalition. After the two parties broke off their partnership in November 2008, Cervera officially left the UPN to join the PP ranks.

It was during that year Cervera and his wife, Mónica Ridruejo - a former RTVE director during Prime Minister José María Aznar's tenure - were married in what was described by the right wing Libertad Digital website as "a peculiar and odd" wedding.

They decided to celebrate their nuptials on July 4, US Independence Day, in Mallorca. Ridruejo was born in the United States while her father was working as a professor at Berkley in California, and the motif at the wedding was the Stars and Stripes. The groom was dressed in a white tuxedo with a gray silk cummerbund and bow tie; the bride in a pale pink dress with matching bouquet from Mi Querida Señorita bridal shop in Madrid.

The ring bearer during the ceremony was "Pixel," Cervera's white West Highland Terrier who, as Libertad Digital put it, "has a special place in the heart of the Popular Party's deputy."

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attended the wedding, as did Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the deputy prime minister, and other members of the PP and UPN. Rajoy posed for photographs with the couple.

"I hope you will be happy and always remember that in life you have to have a positive attitude, and treat those as you would like to be treated," he said. The couple left the wedding for their honeymoon at Cala d'Or in a Porsche 911, bearing the US flag.


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