CORRUPTION

Púnica ringleaders hid €11 million in Switzerland and Singapore

Ex-Madrid official and friend thought to have charged commissions to award contracts

Francisco Granados was arrested on October 27, 2014 as part of Operation Púnica.
Francisco Granados was arrested on October 27, 2014 as part of Operation Púnica.Claudio Álvarez

The criminal inquiry into the Púnica bid-rigging scheme, which was broken up in late October with the arrest of 50 people in several Spanish provinces, has found that its two ringleaders have €11 million stashed away in Switzerland and Singapore.

Francisco Granados, a former official with the Madrid regional government, and his business partner David Marjaliza, a constructor, are both in preventive prison on suspicion of leading a ring thought to have unlawfully awarded as much as €250 million in public contracts.

Officials from 46 Madrid municipalities had some degree of involvement with the Púnica ring

Investigators believe that the beneficiaries had been predetermined by the ringleaders after accepting bribes from the corrupt bidders.

The origin of Operation Púnica was the discovery of Swiss bank accounts held by Granados and Margaliza, who often conducted simultaneous transactions with them. Swiss authorities informed Spain about indications of “aggravated money-laundering operations.” Both men held a joint €5.8 million in Switzerland at one point.

Now, the investigation has uncovered four accounts in Singapore along with seven others in Switzerland. The examining magistrate, High Court judge Eloy Velasco, has ordered the Swiss accounts blocked and wants to have the money repatriated to Spanish government coffers as soon as possible.

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Granados, once an aide to former regional premier Esperanza Aguirre – who is now running for mayor of Madrid –  has claimed that he never had more than €300,000 in Switzerland at any time. But investigators have found an account in his name containing €1.6 million, and believe that the money in Marjaliza’s name may also belong to him, as wiretaps show that the latter acted as a front man for his childhood friend.

The money is believed to be the result of commissions paid by companies who wanted to get Madrid government contracts.

Civil Guard officers recently traveled to Switzerland to inspect a safe at a local bank. In it Marjaliza had placed around 20 artworks, including valuable pieces by Antoni Tàpies and Manolo Valdés, which investigators suspect may have been used to launder money from the illegal commissions.

Officials from 46 Madrid municipalities had some degree of involvement with the Púnica ring. At the moment, half a dozen mayors have been connected to the case, but several more local leaders and councilors are also under investigation.

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