PM dismisses Valencia official arrested on corruption charges

Serafín Castellano, a regional heavyweight, is suspected of wrongfully awarding contracts

A police officer outside Serafín Castellano's home in Benissanó.
A police officer outside Serafín Castellano's home in Benissanó.JOSÉ JORDÁN

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday removed his delegate in the Valencia region from office, just hours after the latter’s arrest on corruption charges.

Serafín Castellano is suspected of involvement in embezzlement, breach of public duty and bribing public officials in connection with public contracts awarded while he was working for the Valencia regional government, before he accepted his most recent role.

Law enforcement authorities also raided the Valencia health, infrastructure and governance departments

After detaining him in Benissanó (Valencia), law enforcement authorities also raided the Valencia regional health, infrastructure and governance departments and took away a considerable amount of material.

Investigators are looking at regional contracts secured by a company called Avialsa while Castellano was a Valencian government official. Castellano and the president of Avialsa, which provided fire extinguishing services to the regional administration, had been on several game hunts together, and the latter allegedly gave the official a hunting rifle as a gift.

Another business under scrutiny is Taroncher, which obtained a contract to build a forest path in the town of Viver, Castellón province, while Castellano headed up the regional health department.

Mayor of Valladolid holds on to seat despite court ruling

Justino Sanchon

Francisco Javier León de la Riva (PP), the outgoing mayor of Valladolid following Sunday's municipal elections, announced that he would not give up office until June 13, when the new city council is instated.

His statement comes despite a new court ruling barring him from office for 13 months for disobeying justice. The judge has also stripped him of his councilor’s seat, although De la Riva plans to appeal.

The conviction is based on the fact that for nearly five years, the mayor failed to honor a 2008 court ruling forcing him to undo damage done to a building in city.

The building in question, located on Zorrilla Square, had undergone illegal reforms in violation of city ordinances. It also happens to be the building where De la Riva has his principal residence.

The new ruling finds that De la Riva deliberately ignored the court-mandated order to undo the illegal reforms, which included the addition of penthouses.

The arrest sent new shock waves through the Valencian PP, which is still trying to come to terms with the major blow delivered by voters at Sunday’s local and regional elections.

A PP bastion for decades, Valencia has been the focus of a multitude of egregious corruption cases, which have often made world headlines. Three weeks ago, the head of the Valencia provincial authority, Alfonso Rus, was stripped of his post in connection with illegal commissions accepted in exchange for contracts.

Until Friday, Castellano had been a key figure in the Valencian PP, serving under regional premiers Eduardo Zaplana, Francisco Camps and Alberto Fabra. Following the PP’s poor showing at European elections a year ago, Castellano was relocated to the central government’s Valencian delegation.

The arrest is the result of a months-long investigation triggered by a complaint filed by a former manager at Avialsa. This whistleblower alerted authorities to irregularities in the way Avialsa secured government contracts between 2008 and 2010.

City halls, provincial authorities, public corporations and numerous government departments in the PP-run Valencia region have been involved in corruption scandals, often involving bribes for contracts.

In the wake of Sunday’s results, Valencia premier Alberto Fabra announced that he would no longer head the regional PP, and blamed the poor showing at the polls on the corruption scandals.

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