Operation Púnica

Former top Madrid official and partner had €5.8m in Swiss accounts

Operation Púnica suspect Francisco Granados got rich in tandem with constructor

Francisco Granados at an official event in 2010.
Francisco Granados at an official event in 2010.SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ

Francisco Granados – a former top official in the Madrid regional government who was arrested on Monday on suspicion of political corruption – and a business partner accumulated at least €5.8 million in Swiss bank accounts.

Granados and David Marjaliza, a wealthy constructor and childhood friend of the Popular Party (PP) politician, kept their finances separate, but Swiss authorities noticed transfers between their accounts, as well as similar, simultaneous transactions, which led to an investigation.

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Switzerland informed Spain about the connections between the politician and the constructor, which became the origin of Operation Púnica, a major raid against a bid-rigging scheme spanning four Spanish regions and provinces. Besides Granados, 34 other people were arrested, including six mayors from the Madrid region and the chief of the provincial authority of León.

Besides these two accounts, a third Swiss account was also held by Granados at BNP Paribas, where the former secretary general of the Madrid branch of the PP had deposited €1.5 million.

The Operation Púnica investigation shows that Granados and Marjaliza led separate economic lives that sporadically coincided when it was mutually beneficial.

In 2013, Granados held around €300,000 in his account (besides the €1.5 million in the other) while Marjaliza’s showed a balance of €4 million. But legal sources said transactions from past years will be investigated on the suspicion that the accounts may have held significantly larger amounts of money. Granados opened one of his Swiss accounts in 1999, the year he became mayor of Valdemoro, a town south of Madrid.

The investigation shows that besides doing business with Marjaliza, Granados also negotiated fees with constructors and other entrepreneurs who wished to secure public contracts. Some public agencies deliberately raised the value of the bids or manipulated them to ensure that the winner would be Granados’ choice.

Meanwhile, Marjaliza had his own line of alleged corrupt business dealings. He acted as an agent for either his own businesses or for accomplice ones, securing them municipal contracts through his networking activities. It is believed that Granados, first a mayor (1999-2003) and later number two to then-regional premier Esperanza Aguirre, may have helped his friend grease palms.

Marjaliza also sat on the boards of nearly 100 companies, and several of these would often bid for a government contract to feign competition.

All 35 detainees in Operation Púnica, including Granados, remained under arrest on Tuesday awaiting interrogation and a court appearance.