A Madrid court has jailed a 37-year-man for sending blackmail letters to businessmen in the name of ETA demanding money. The terrorist organization has long funded its activities by threatening businesses in the Basque country with violence if they refused to pay up.
“It may be that you think you are safe, but believe me: you’re not,” said the missives sent to executives in Madrid, Catalonia, Santander, Cádiz and Alicante, among other cities. The Madrid Provincial High Court considered it proven that Jorge García Valcárcel created a batch of letters in 2008 “that carried the seal of ETA at the top and the bottom.”
García was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but the court recommended he serve no more than a seven-and-a-half years.
The letters read: “The organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna [ETA] informs you with this letter that it considers you one of the people responsible for the current state of conflict between Euskal Herria and the Spanish state.” The recipient was then told he was an “objective” of ETA and amounts varying between 15,000 and 50,000 euros were demanded.
According to the court report, García’s letters caused “great fear among their recipients” as ETA had brought a ceasefire to an end in June 2007. The letters told García’s victims to send an SMS to a cellphone number, leaving their names and telephone numbers.
García visited at least 11 businessmen in January 2008. When some of these alerted the police, anti-terrorist investigators immediately concluded that the author of the letters was not a member of ETA. The case was passed to the police’s kidnapping and extortion unit.
García was eventually arrested on January 15, 2008 as he was walking in Génova street in Madrid, where the offices of his Mosaico Consulting business were located. During his trial García denied sending the letters but was found guilty by a jury and sentenced for criminally threatening behavior.
The magistrates sitting on the case said they could not fathom why García had attempted to extort money when he was in a “comfortable economic situation.”
The court acquitted Massiel Teresa F. R., 29, García’s girlfriend, and Michael P. M. R., of acting as accomplices in García’s activities.