Operation Púnica

Targets in Púnica corruption probe enjoyed lavish hunting trips

Firm under scrutiny in graft investigation took PP politicians on upscale shooting weekends

Francisco Granados (center, wearing suit) at a hunting lodge in 2002. Constructor Francisco Colado of Grupo Dico is first on the left.
Francisco Granados (center, wearing suit) at a hunting lodge in 2002. Constructor Francisco Colado of Grupo Dico is first on the left.EL PAÍS

A construction company under scrutiny in the Operation Púnica investigation into corruption involving local government contracts organized four hunting trips between 2002 and 2006 that brought together around 20 property developers and elected Popular Party (PP) officials.

Two former directors of Grupo Dico, one of the firms being probed in relation to bid rigging in Madrid, León, Murcia, and Valencia, have told police that the PP’s former number two in the Madrid region, Francisco Granados, attended the trips on at least two occasions. Granados, who is now in jail after being arrested in the Púnica swoop, can be seen in a photograph of a hunt that took place at La Solana, a country house in Toledo province in 2002.

“Paco [Francisco Granados] would keep out of the photos,” said another member of the group. Granados was then mayor of the Madrid dormitory town of Valdemoro, to the southeast of the capital, which doubled in size during the late 1990s and the early part of the 2000s.

Left to right: constructors Ramiro Cid, David Marjaliza and Francisco Colado (Grupo Dico) at La Parrilla in 2004.
Left to right: constructors Ramiro Cid, David Marjaliza and Francisco Colado (Grupo Dico) at La Parrilla in 2004.EL PAÍS

His successor as head of the local council, José Miguel Moreno, also from the PP, has admitted to attending one of the hunting trips in 2004. He has not been targeted in the Púnica investigation.

Grupo Dico won bids to build commercial and residential properties on municipal land in Valdemoro. A former director of the company estimated that the contracts were worth €600,000. The company also built a sports center in the town, along with an emergency center and two car parks, according to Socialist Party Valdemoro councilor Serafín Faraldos.

More than 50 people have so far been arrested as part of Operation Púnica, among them the mayors of Valdemoro and nearby Parla. The head of the provincial authority of León has also been detained as part of the investigation. Preliminary evidence shows the existence of a ring of corrupt entrepreneurs who paid politicians to secure lucrative contracts for their companies.

Francisco Granados, the highest-placed former official involved in the case, had a Swiss bank account between 1999 and late 2012, when he withdrew all his money. The Swiss banking authorities then informed Spain that Granados had held €1.5 million in this account.

Left to right: Francisco Colado, Julián Jiménez (Grupo Dico) and David Marjaliza at El Descanso lodge.
Left to right: Francisco Colado, Julián Jiménez (Grupo Dico) and David Marjaliza at El Descanso lodge.EL PAÍS

Granados initially denied the existence of the account, but then admitted to it, claiming he never made deposits while an elected official. The scandal forced the head of the PP’s Madrid branch, Esperanza Aguirre, to remove him from office in November 2011. Aguirre herself stood down as premier of the regional government of Madrid in September 2012, citing personal reasons.

High Court Judge Eloy Velasco has been investigating the origin of Granados’ money for the last year and suspects that it may have come from illegal commissions paid by builders for fraudulent rezoning of land and rigged construction bids while Granados was mayor of Valdemoro. Granados is also implicated in the wider Gürtel bribes-for-contracts case.

Ex-Grupo Dico director David Merino at La Parrilla (Toledo).
Ex-Grupo Dico director David Merino at La Parrilla (Toledo).EL PAÍS

Also present at the hunting trips organized by Dico was property developer David Marjaliza, who is also in jail. He is believed to have played a central role as a “fixer” within the network of companies and politicians rigging bids for municipal contracts. At one point, he owned 60 percent of the land in Valdemoro that had been zoned for construction.

Dico’s profits increased year-on-year by 146 percent in 2005, to around €14 million. Three years later, following the collapse of the Spanish economy, Dico’s property development division Promodico went under, leaving behind dozens of unfinished projects – including some in Mexico, Dominican Republic and Brazil – and debts of €100 million. Julián Jiménez, Dico’s co-founder, has said he will make a “voluntary” statement to Judge Eloy Velasco. He denies the claim made by his business partner, David Merino, that he paid bribes to secure contracts.

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