CORRUPTION

Eight years for Valencia regional deputy who defrauded millions in aid money

Rafael Blasco and his accomplices bought real estate with funds destined for Latin America projects

Rafael Blasco has been barred from office for the next 20 years.
Rafael Blasco has been barred from office for the next 20 years.Carles Francesc

A former member of the Valencian government has been sentenced to eight years in prison for siphoning money from a fund meant for development aid in poor countries.

Rafael Blasco was also barred from holding office for 20 years. Eight other members of a ring that colluded to appropriate around €8 million of aid were also served with jail terms totaling 43 years.

Much of the money, which was slated for development projects in Central America and the Caribbean, was instead used to buy real estate in Valencia.

The crimes were committed under the premiership of Francisco Camps, of the Popular Party (PP), who stood trial for corruption but was acquitted in January 2012. He had stepped down as premier of the region before that, in July 2011.

Six out of the nine convicted individuals held upper-level positions within the Valencia solidarity department when it was under Blasco’s leadership.

His scheming got him removed from his position as PP regional assembly spokesman

Blasco, who is still a regional deputy, was found guilty of pressuring his workers into illegally handing out development subsidies to the Cyes Foundation, the front organization that used the money to buy real estate. Those who resisted were replaced with more compliant workers.

Another major figure in the case is Augusto César Tauroni, a businessman who mediated in the five subsidies awarded to Cyes, receiving €450,000 for his services.

Wednesday’s convictions represent only one of three separate investigations into the so-called  “Co-operation case.” This particular inquiry looked into the disappearance of €1.8 million in money earmarked for Nicaragua and €4 million that was supposed to help build a hospital in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, but which was just a phony project to keep the funds.

Blasco, 69, is a veteran figure in Valencian politics. He was a close advisor to three regional premiers, and worked as Popular Party (PP) spokesman in the regional assembly and as head of the solidarity and justice departments, reaching the height of his power under Camps.

A crafty powerbroker, he did not hesitate to switch allegiances after being expelled by the Socialists 

A crafty powerbroker, he did not hesitate to switch allegiances after being expelled from the Socialist Party 25 years ago under suspicion of accepting bribes in exchange for favors to real estate developers.

Some time after that, Blasco, who had been an anti-fascist activist in his youth, was recruited by the conservative PP and returned to the regional government under the protection of then-regional premier Eduardo Zaplana.

His scheming got him removed from his position as PP spokesman in the assembly in 2012, when the development aid scandal broke. He was ejected from the party a year ago, when a judge put him in the dock.

Yet he holds on to his regional seat as an independent, and pundits are betting that Blasco will appeal to the Supreme Court in a bid to reverse his conviction.

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