SLEUTHING

Police will gain access to private investigators’ files under reform plan

Government’s proposals criticized by professional associations as a knee-jerk reaction to Método 3 case

A proposed law expected to be approved by the Cabinet on Friday will tighten the rules regulating the nation’s private detective agencies.

If ultimately passed by Congress, private sleuths will now have to draft formal contracts with all clients and make those copies available to the police. At the same time, the police and Civil Guard will have access to all information stemming from private investigations — a new policy that has the detective organizations up in arms.

“This bill is outrageous and proposes excessive controls,” said Eva Grueso Domínguez, president of the Association of Professional Detectives of Spain, which groups about 1,500 agents across the country.

Grueso, as well as other colleagues, believe that the bill is the Interior Ministry’s answer to the recent scandal involving the Método 3 agency, which had been hired by politicians and others to tail and spy on prominent figures and draft reports for their clients. A Barcelona court continues to investigate the now-defunct agency after Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, the Popular Party (PP) leader in Catalonia, complained that she was recorded by Método 3 agents in 2010 during a lunch date with the former girlfriend of Jordi Pujol Ferrusola — the son of a former regional premier. The ex-girlfriend had reportedly described Pujol Ferrusola’s alleged money laundering activities during that lunch held at La Camarga restaurant.

“What need is there for the police to know and have a record if a person believes their partner has been unfaithful to them?” the association asked in a statement.

The law will also require that private detectives file an annual report of all the work they performed throughout the year with the Interior Ministry. However, those reports will contain limited information and will not have the names or addresses of the persons who contracted their services or those who are targets of their investigations.

Still, private investigators fear that the reports that they will have to turn over to the police concerning their investigations could be used as a personal government file on individuals by the Interior Ministry. Detective associations said they will oppose this measure when the bill reaches Congress because it violates the privacy of citizens.

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