Isabel Pantoja sentenced to two years in jail in money-laundering case

Singer will not have to serve time but will have to pay 1.14-million-euro fine

Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja is carried by the Spanish Civil Guard and police officers to a car after she collapsed while leaving court on Tuesday.
Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja is carried by the Spanish Civil Guard and police officers to a car after she collapsed while leaving court on Tuesday.JON NAZCA (REUTERS)

The internationally renowned copla singer Isabel Pantoja has been sentenced to 24 months in jail for money laundering, in a case that also involved her ex-partner, the former mayor of Marbella, Julián Muñoz. Pantoja will not serve prison time, however, but will be liable to pay a fine of 1.14 million euros.

The verdicts in the so-called Malaya Case were read to the accused in court on Tuesday morning. Muñoz was handed down a sentence totaling seven years, for offenses of money laundering and bribery. He will also have to pay a fine of 3.89 million euros.

The ex-wife of Muñoz, Maite Zaldívar, and her brother were given sentences of three years, three months and one day for money laundering, as well as fines of 2.48 million euros.

Barring an exceptional decision made by the judges, Pantoja will not go to jail given that her sentence does not exceed two years, as well as the fact that she has no prior convictions. Pantoja was only tried for money-laundering charges, and was given the maximum sentence for such offenses. The public prosecutor had called for both her and Maite Zaldívar to be given three-and-a-half years in jail on the basis of the offenses being continuous.

Zaldívar was given a longer sentence, after the judges found her guilty of a continuous offense. The ex-wife of Muñoz broke down in tears on hearing the judges’ ruling.

The court decided that Muñoz should be immediately taken into custody, on the basis that he already has a pending sentence of seven-and-a-half years in another case, which is currently being appealed in the Supreme Court. On Thursday, the former mayor of the southern city will appear in the High Court to face trial for yet another case, involving the diversion of funds from Marbella City Council. The public prosecutor is calling for a 13-year sentence in the latter proceedings.

The defense lawyers for all of the accused have said that they will appeal Tuesday’s ruling in the next few days.

Muñoz, 65, a former waiter, became the epitome of the excesses of the city of Marbella during Spain’s property boom, profiting from public money, bribes and other favors during his time as deputy mayor from 1991 to 2002, under the notorious Jesús Gil, and as mayor from 2002 to 2003.

Muñoz was arrested during the third wave of arrests in the Operation Malaya investigation, in July 2006. Zaldívar was detained later that same year, while Pantoja was implicated in the case in May 2007.

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