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.
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.