CRIME

Magaluf police implicated in suspected extortion ring

Mallorcan resort famous for “anything goes” approach caught up in trade war between rival bars

Municipal police on patrol in Magaluf.
Municipal police on patrol in Magaluf.JAIME REINA / AFP

The chief of police of Calviá, the municipality in Mallorca that includes Magaluf, is being investigated for running an extortion network in the holiday resort, which is popular with tourists from Britain and northern Europe.

José Antonio Navarro and two other officers from his unit, along with the head of police in neighboring Marratxí, were arrested on September 1, and have since been released on bail. They are now under investigation after local businesses provided videos and emails allegedly proving that the policemen were working on behalf of rival establishments in the area.

“This is a war between business clans,” says a well-placed source, adding: “The implication is that some police officers have threatened businesses on behalf of others.”

The officers are accused of threats, extortion and bribing civil servants

Pepe Tirado, a spokesman for the Balearic island’s tourism business’ association, says that corruption on the island is widespread and deep-rooted, pointing to “hidden conflicts”. He described Navarro as “a scapegoat, a victim of this war between clans.”

Public prosecutors, acting on tip-offs from local business owners, accuse Navarro and Ledesma of providing protection to some businesses in Magaluf, which paid them a de facto salary for tasks such as applying for work permits for foreigners. The officers are accused of threats, extortion and bribing civil servants.

Navarro, a law graduate who gives classes in ethics, has a reputation for his low-key approach. Some local businesses have described his arrest as “putting the sheriff in jail; now the outlaws are running the town. It’s all upside down.”

It’s like they’ve put the sheriff in jail; now the outlaws are running the town”

Magaluf’s main thoroughfare, Punta Ballena street, is lined with nightclubs, sex shops, and, above all, bars. For five months out of the year they compete to attract the tens of thousands of mainly British tourists who go there for low-cost vacations during the summer months. Cheap alcohol and an anything-goes approach to entertainment is what draws visitors in.

Calviá has a population of 53,000, of whom almost half are foreigners. Its hotels have a total of 60,000 beds. The population triples in summer, with growing number of private homes offering accommodation.

Public prosecutor Miguel Ángel Subirán has said he intends to uncover what he believes may be a network of corrupt officers working in different towns on the island.

The public prosecutor intends to uncover what he believes may be a network of corrupt officers on the island

The investigation seems to have been prompted by a video widely seen on the internet of a young woman apparently performing oral sex on a large group of men as part of Carnage Magaluf, a bar crawl organized by the Dalys, a British family that owns several bars and hotels on the island. They were heavily fined and threatened with closure of the bar in question. A crackdown on the activities of other bars is believed to have revived long-standing disputes between businesses, with some supposedly calling in favors from local police.

It also led to a video from May 2013 seemingly showing two local police officers planting drugs in a bar run by a businessman in Magaluf being sent to the public prosecutor’s office. Another officer with a police sniffer dog then finds the drugs.

The two officers’ subsequent report makes no mention of finding any drugs in the bar. “It was a threat, to show what they are capable of,” says a well-placed source. The officers have said in their defense that they were training the dog, although they admitted that the drugs in question were being used outside official controls.

“This has been going on for years,” says Alejandro Jara, who runs several bars in Calviá, and who has highlighted the public prosecutor’s office to what he says is police corruption. “They leave the bars that they have in their pockets alone, but the others get fried,” he says.

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