PROPERTY PROBE

Madrid premier says he bought probed luxury apartment

Judge has opened a probe into the ownership of penthouse González previously claimed to have been renting

Madrid Popular Party (PP) regional premier Ignacio González on Wednesday claimed that last month he and his wife had bought a luxury apartment close to the southern Mediterranean resort town of Marbella, which they had been renting at a relatively low rate from a company registered in the US tax haven of Delaware.

The situation regarding the rental of the 500-square-meter penthouse apartment in the up-market Alhambra del Golf residential area in Marbella is being investigated by a judge following a complaint by the SUP police union.

González and his wife were renting the apartment under a long-term lease at 2,000 euros a month, when rentals in similar residences in the area are going for 6,000 euros a month.

A spokesman said the premier had acquired the apartment for 770,000 euros

The SUP’s complaint alleged that the apartment was purchased for a million euros in 2008 by a trustee named Rudy Valner on behalf of a company called Coast Investors LLC, which is registered in Delaware.

A spokesman for González said the premier had acquired the apartment at the end of last year for 770,000 euros. The spokesman said that 80 percent of the apartment is in the name of González’s wife, Lourdes Cavero, who is deputy head of the Madrid branch of the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE), the country’s biggest employer group. The remaining 20 percent is in the name of González, who as premier earns a net 4,800 euros a month.

The probe initiated by Estepona judge María Peregrina on January 9 accepted a 141-page report on the ownership of the apartment carried out by the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office.

González on Wednesday told reporters that his purchase of the apartment “had nothing to do with” the investigation. “My only link is that I was a tenant, that I have my rental contract, that I religiously paid the rent, and as I said at the time, my intention was to buy the property,” he said.

We politicians have to be irreproachable, and what’s more appear to be"

In an interview last November, González said he was in talks on the possible purchase of the apartment. He said on Wednesday that he could not complete the transaction at the time because the apartment was not then listed with the property registry, something the bank from which he was seeking a loan had insisted upon.

Former Madrid premier Esperanza Aguirre, who unexpectedly stood down last year to be replaced by González, on Wednesday staunchly defended her former colleague, whom she said was doing things very well in difficult circumstances.

“We politicians have to be irreproachable, and what’s more appear to be; it’s fine by me if they investigate whatever they want,” Aguirre, who is still the Madrid PP leader, said.

The former premier insisted the apartment did not belong to González. “The poor guy wanted to buy it and now after all this fuss, they’re making it very difficult for him,” she said.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández said the police were at the “disposition” of the Estepona judge in her investigation.

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