The former Popular Party (PP) spokesman in the Valencia regional parliament, Rafael Blasco, provided lengthy court testimony on Thursday in an investigation into the alleged siphoning off of international aid funds by a corruption ring.
The anticorruption prosecutor said he considered Blasco, who also served as the regional government’s Solidarity and Citizenry department chief between 2007 and 2011, of being the “director” of the scheme to funnel funds destined for developing countries from the Valencia administration coffers.
The case is divided into two parts, with the current trial focused on the disappearance of money earmarked for a foundation carrying out relief projects in Nicaragua. Of 1.8 million euros assigned by Blasco’s department, only 43,000 eventually reached the Central American nation. The remainder was used to buy up property and parking spaces in Valencia.
Blasco denied a business relationship with the suspected leader of the ring, Augusto César Tauroni, who is the only person to have been placed in preventive custody as a result of the investigation. According to the accusation, Tauroni headed up the civil arm of the corruption network, with Blasco responsible for the administrative side, the former receiving favorable public contract awards from regional government departments headed by the latter. The accusation asserts that Tauroni received 25 percent of the 1.8 million euros for behind-the-scenes negotiations with NGO Cyes Foundation.
On recordings played in the courtroom, Blasco is heard telling the businessman that “the important thing is to hang in there.” An SMS message from Tauroni to Blasco was also submitted: “Cheer up. We’ve got out of worse situations.”
Valencia’s ONGD coordinating body , which groups together non-profit organizations, has called for the investigation to “set an example,” given the “seriousness of the crimes, which constitute enrichment with public money destined for the fight against poverty.”
Blasco told the court he had no idea that the money had been invested in property in the Valencia region, saying: “I didn’t believe it when I found out.”