Police chief’s business activities probed

José Manuel Villarejo, an "undercover agent," has been linked to several high-profile cases He will now be investigated by the Interior Ministry due to his stake in a number of firms

A Spanish police inspector who has been involved in several high-profile political and legal inquiries is also a successful entrepreneur, holding a stake in 12 businesses with combined capital of €16 million, according to an analysis carried out by EL PAÍS  of information available at Spain’s Business Registry.

The combined police work and entrepreneurial activity of José Manuel Villarejo Pérez is, he claims, above board and was sanctioned by his superiors. But since the revelations were published by EL PAÍS on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry has announced it will launch an investigation into Villarejo to determine whether his police work and his business activities are compatible.

The police chief recently made the news over his alleged involvement in an investigation into a luxury property owned by current Madrid regional premier Ignacio González, of the center-right Popular Party (PP).

González has accused the police captain of trying to blackmail him over the penthouse apartment, which some reports described as a gift for the premier from the corrupt Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts ring in exchange for the rezoning of land in Arganda del Rey to benefit a specific construction company. In response, Villarejo has filed a complaint against González for making that claim. Both the penthouse and the investigation into it are the subject of separate ongoing court inquiries.

The police captain has also filed accusations against colleagues at the internal affairs department who identified him in a blurry photograph that is part of the investigation into “Little Nicolás,” a young man who was recently exposed after having posed as an intelligence officer and Popular Party official in order to worm his way into circles of power.

Villarejo claims that this department has deliberately tampered with the evidence to falsely get him involved in this and other cases. His name has also cropped up in connection with Gao Ping, the Chinese ringleader of one of the biggest money-laundering operations ever seen in Spain.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández-Díaz on Tuesday announced that he has ordered an investigation into Villarejo’s assets following the revelations made by EL PAIS.

An undercover agent

J. A.

On November 29, 2011, Villarejo and another police captain, Enrique García Castaño, met with Ignacio González, then the deputy premier of the Madrid region, to discuss his penthouse apartment in Estepona (Málaga). This property was being investigated as part of the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts scandal. González has since claimed that both officers attempted to blackmail him, and is suing the police inspector. In response, Villarejo has filed a counter-complaint over the accusation.

Villarejo defines himself as "an undercover agent." In the 1990s he was involved in the drafting of the a report against former High Court judge Baltasar Garzón. His name has also cropped up in connection with the strange case of Little Nicolás, an alleged confidence trickster who is facing charges in the courts.

Villarejo is also at odds with the National Police's chief of internal affairs, Marcelino Martín Blas, who has linked Villarejo to several odd cases.

“When I am in Lebanon pretending to be a drug mule or in Iraq as a tradesman or in Afghanistan posing as a horse dealer, I am doing the job I love,” Villarejo has written about himself.

“I have asked the general directorate of the police for a report into Captain Villarejo’s assets and all possible compatibilities and incompatibilities. It is my understanding that [his business activities] were accredited and authorized at the time by the heads of the corresponding police bodies and units,” said the minister.

In two recent conversations with this newspaper, Villarejo insisted that his superiors were aware of his business activities.

“After a 10-year leave of absence from the police, they asked me to return as an undercover agent and gave authorization for me to continue with my private activities,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I have put some of my businesses at the service of the police in order to conduct investigations inside and outside Spain.”

Villarejo, who is about to turn 64, has been working in the shadows for the last three decades for the General Directorate of the National Police, where he arrived in the mid-1990s. After an apparent absence, he was “officially” brought back in January 2011.

Together with his current wife, Gemma Alcalá Garcés, and a lawyer named Rafael Redondo Rodríguez, Villarejo holds a stake in – and occasionally is the chairman or sole manager of – 12 companies with a combined capital of €16 million. This corporate network is headquartered in Madrid, although some of the companies are located near his home in Boadilla del Monte or in cities where they operate, including Córdoba and Málaga.

Villarejo’s business activities began in the early 1990s on a very small scale, and grew exponentially over the last 22 years. During that time, he also held several positions of responsibility within the National Police.