Operation Púnica

Prison for Madrid mayors involved in Operation Púnica bid-rigging scheme

Leaders of Parla and Torrejón de Velasco can avoid jail by posting bail of €60,000

The mayor of Parla, José María Fraile (right), and Didier Maurice, head of Cofely, have both been targeted in Operation Púnica.
The mayor of Parla, José María Fraile (right), and Didier Maurice, head of Cofely, have both been targeted in Operation Púnica.EL PAÍS

The Spanish High Court judge investigating a major bid-rigging scheme has sent four of the 12 suspects who appeared before him on Wednesday to preventive prison. Among them are Madrid region mayors José María Fraile, the Socialist leader of Parla, a town of over 125,000 south of the capital, and Gonzalo Cubas Navarro, the Popular Party (PP) mayor of Torrejón de Velasco, population 4,000.

Both men are part of a group of 51 people targeted in Operation Púnica, an anti-corruption investigation that raided locations in Madrid, Valencia, Murcia and León on Monday.

Judge Eloy Velasco of the High Court is describing the bribes-for-contracts ring as a long-running organized network that shared out the roles played by each member.

The ring manipulated bids to award government contracts worth as much as €100 million to specific applicants, according to a writ issued at 10.30pm by the judge. As much as €250 million in public contracts may have been handed out this way.

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These activities could be the origin of the millions of euros discovered in Swiss bank accounts held by two other suspects in the case: Francisco Granados, a former top official in the Madrid regional government, and his business associate David Marjaliza, a constructor. Both men are though to be the masterminds behind the corrupt network.

The origin of Operation Púnica lies in an investigation into these accounts initiated in February after Swiss authorities alerted Spain about a number of suspicious transactions.

In his statement, the judge says there is evidence of “numerous sales and purchases of financial assets and foreign reserves, and international transfers to countries in the Americas both in euros and in dollars. The investigation has closed the circle of money laundering, in which the money placed in Switzerland returned to Spain after going through several countries under the guise of various export operations.”

The judge believes that Granados, with his “organized network of personal relations and political influence,” secured the irregular awarding of public contracts in all the towns investigated in Operation Púnica.

The judge said the mayors were so compliant as to “draft phony invoices and fake technical reports”

According to the judge, the mayors targeted in the investigation were so compliant as “to incur in drafting phony invoices, faking technical reports and awarding jobs without a previous contract.” Everyone involved was awarded a fee.

The mayors of Parla and Torrejón de Velasco can avoid jail if they post bail of €60,000. The mayor of Collado Villalba, Agustín Juárez of the PP, was also told to post bail of €40,000.

Other targets of the investigation include the chief of the provincial authority of León, Marcos Martínez, the CEO of Cofely, a French company that benefited significantly from the scheme, and various other entrepreneurs, elected officials and civil servants.

Meanwhile, Judge Velasco has asked the regional government of Madrid for extensive documentation relating to Francisco Granados’ activities between 2004 and 2009 when he served as an official there under then-premier Esperanza Aguirre.