Alhambra chief steps down over links to audio-guide fraud

Head of Granada tourist site, María del Mar Villafranca, defended her “honorable conduct” Prosecutors are investigating her for alleged misappropriation of public funds

María del Mar Villafranca resigned as head of the Alhambra on Tuesday.
María del Mar Villafranca resigned as head of the Alhambra on Tuesday.M. ZARZA

The head of Spain’s most popular tourist site, the Alhambra Palace, has resigned after the Granada public prosecutor filed a complaint against her in relation to alleged irregularities committed in the granting of a contract for the rental of audio-guides to visitors at the monument.

In a brief press conference on Tuesday, in which she took no questions, María del Mar Villafranca announced that she had sent a letter to Andalusian regional culture chief Rosa Aguilar communicating her resignation after 11 years as head of the Granada site, which attracts 2.4 million tourists a year. She also expressed her belief that time and justice would demonstrate her “honorable conduct.”

I am convinced that time and the justice system will determine my honorable conduct” María del Mar Villafranca

Her decision comes after the public prosecutor on Monday brought a complaint citing Villafranca and other members of the Alhambra board of trustees in connection with charges of misappropriation of public funds, corruption and money laundering in relation to the audio-guides contract at the attraction, which has been in the hands of a company called Stendhal since 2007.

The complaint followed the publication of a police report that pointed to an alleged €5 million fraud by Stendhal, whose payments to the Alhambra corresponding to the rental of the audio-guides have been inconsistent and tainted by constant delays over the last eight years.

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As well as Villafranca, the public prosecutor also cited her deputy and secretary general Victoria Chamorro, accountant José Visedo, the representative from the Government Comptroller’s Office at the monument, and two Stendhal employees.

Villafranca said that she was stepping down in order to defend her “honesty” and “integrity” after a “well-considered and sincere reflection,” and in order to avoid the image of the site from being tarnished.

“I am convinced that time and my confidence in the justice system will determine my honorable conduct,” she said.

English version by Nick Funnell.


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