Construction firm paid Spain’s UK ambassador €354,000, say tax auditors

Federico Trillo and PP deputy admit to working as consultants while serving in Congress

PP deputy Vicente Martínez Pujalte (left) and UK ambassador Federico Trillo.
PP deputy Vicente Martínez Pujalte (left) and UK ambassador Federico Trillo.

Spain’s ambassador in London Federico Trillo and Popular Party (PP) deputy Vicente Martínez Pujalte received more than €429,000 in consulting fees from a private construction firm specializing in public works while they were serving in Congress, tax inspectors have discovered.

The two PP officials have acknowledged getting paid as consultants for Grupo Collosa, but both denied any wrongdoing and claimed that they had special authorization from Congress to perform outside work.

Both men accused auditors and anti-corruption prosecutors of leaking taxpayers’ information

Trillo, who also served as defense minister under Prime Minister José María Aznar, received €354,560 over a near-three-year period while Pujalte was paid €75,000 in little over a year, according to AEAT Tax Agency auditors, who have found no documents to justify the work they carried out.

Collosa, which is now known as Corporación Llorente, is under scrutiny as one of the companies that received an operating permit for a wind farm in Castilla y León.

EL PAÍS discovered that auditors are looking into more than €110 million that private power companies may have paid to local government officials and businessmen to help them set up wind farms across the region. That investigation is now in the hands of anti-corruption prosecutors, who will determine if any crimes were committed.

In separate statements, both Trillo and Pujalte acknowledged that they received money from Collosa for consulting work, but at the same time accused the AEAT Tax Agency and the anti-corruption division of leaking taxpayers’ information, which under law should remain confidential.

They never put me in charge of anything that had to do with public works” Federico Trillo

Trillo told EL PAÍS that he never worked on any of Collosa’s public projects, including the wind farms that the construction firm was planning.

“They never put me in charge of anything that had to do with public works,” he said.

Pujalte, who serves as the PP economy spokesman in Congress, explained on Thursday that he acted as a private consultant to Mario Armero, who was the chairman of Corporación Llorente before it was restructured.

In an interview with Cadena SER radio network, Pujalte said Congress gave him authorization to work as a consultant while he was still a deputy. But he said, he did not work on any of the company’s public projects, which would have been illegal.

“I never accompanied Mr Armero to any public or private hearing, and I never participated in the commercial transactions at the company, much less represent the firm,” Pujalte said.

When Armero left the company, Pujalte said his contract ended.

The opposition in Congress asked for new regulations to prevent lawmakers from moonlighting

During their inspections of records of the various companies set up to operate wind farms, auditors found contracts and bills from Pujalte’s Sirga XXI Consultores and Trillo’s Estudio Jurídico Labor offices.

Tax inspectors have asked anti-corruption prosecutors to delve into the more than €110 million in commissions that were allegedly paid to local regional officials and businessmen by the power companies to help push through paperwork and obtain permits for the construction of wind farms between 2004 and 2007 in Castilla y León.

Trillo’s contract with Collosa was signed on February 10, 2006, when he was in opposition. The company agreed to pay his Estudio Jurídico Labor consulting group, which he owns with his sons, €9,000 a month. The contract was extended for the next two years.

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Pujalte said he was paid a €5,000 monthly retainer from Collosa from which he had to pay his own expenses.

While both men said they received special dispensations from Congress to carry out their outside consulting work, some opposition members in Congress on Thursday asked for new regulations to prevent lawmakers from moonlighting.

The Plural Left coalition demanded an end to this “cohabitation” of economic power and politics.

Carlos Martínez Gorriarán, deputy spokesman for Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), said the new revelations about Trillo’s business activities did not surprise him because “there still remain valid suspicions” regarding how corruption has been used to finance political parties and individuals.

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