Carriages were among assets seized from Juan Antonio Roca’s estate in San Pedro Alcántara. :: SUR
From investigating hidden wealth of those convicted to finding legal ways of taking priority over other creditors, the council is trying to ensure that it receives the money it is entitled to
The appeal that has been lodged by the public prosecutor against the proposal from the court handling the ‘Malaya case’ , that the fines that are paid to the State should be given to Marbella, is another example of how difficult Marbella is finding it to recover its losses from the 15 years during which council funds were systematically looted. This is proving to be a process in which there is little progress and that is plagued with setbacks and complications.
The sentences handed down by the courts in recent years, especially in macro-proceedings such as ‘Saqueo 1’, Saqueo 2’ , ‘Malaya’, the ‘Tribunal de Cuentas’ case and smaller but equally as newsworthy cases such as ‘Minutas’ and ‘Blanqueo’, have demolished the scepticism of those who did not believe the legal action would have any remedial effects. But those who trusted that this historic and moral redress would result in a swift recovery of what had been stolen have had their hopes dashed. If achieving legal redress in the courts was a question of time and perseverence, translating those judicial victories into positive results for the municipal finances is proving much more difficult.
Trying to calculate with any degree of accuracy the amount of money taken by those who for 15 years systematically ransacked Marbella Town Hall is a task of almost heroic proportions, not only for the amounts involved but also because of the diverse ways in which it was done.
Not only did these include diverting public funds to companies which were created as a way of escaping all the controls, but other systems of robbery also took place such as irregular tenders for contracts, bribes in return for favours and, above all, what was at the heart of the plundering for many years: planning agreements and the blatant commercialisation of the benefits deriving from them.
More than 300 million
For this reason, there is no better way to approximate the amount of money that was taken from Marbella than through the sentences which have already been handed down by the courts, including those against which appeals are and are not possible, and by calculating the likely sums to be imposed in cases where no sentence has yet been decided.
The amounts involved from sentences against which no appeal is possible come to approximately 300 million euros; those sentences which are subject to appeal amount to another 50 million. And that is without taking into account the interest that has accumulated in all this time.
Out of all this money, Marbella council has only received just over one million euros: 600,000 from Juan Antonio Roca corresponding to the ‘Sa queo 1’ case and 400,000 from José María del Nido for the ‘Minutas’ case. It also has some properties that were owned by Roca and have not yet been converted into cash and smaller sums from others who were convicted of lesser offences.
During all the time that has passed, the principal players in the looting have been able to set up networks of companies to hide their wealth and the legal services at the Town Hall are trying to unravel these. This is a task that takes not only time but also resources to which a local administration may not always have access.
The greatest victory was achieved when the Accounts Tribunal first of all embargoed a company owned by the children of Jesús Gil and Pedro Román and then ordered it to pay the biggest sum so far - 84 million euros, plus interest which could almost double the amount - for the two men’s liability in manipulating public funds during the first eight years of Jesús Gil’s mandate. The council is waiting for this sentence, in which dozens of properties will come into play, to be carried out.
The key is the ‘Malaya’ case
However, that is an isolated case. The key to the major problem of recovering what was stolen lies with the ‘Malaya’ case , because it was not until that police operation began that many of the properties and the bank accounts of those responsible for the looting of Town Hall funds came to light. Juan Antonio Roca alone had about 50 bank accounts as well as a large number of vehicles, most of them Mercedes, and more than 350 properties among other assets.
But ‘Malaya’ is precisely the only case in which the principal creditor for the funds generated by the sentences is not Marbella Town Hall, but the State. The sentences do not oblige those responsible to return the stolen money to the Town Hall, but to pay fines, most of them for money laundering. And the Town Hall does not receive that money - Hacienda does.
Roca, considered to be the principal offender, has been ordered to pay a fine of 240 million euros and the others have been fined a similar sum between them. When the sentence is made final, it will be Hacienda that can sink its teeth into that bounty.
For this reason, the Town Hall is racing against the clock to try to ensure that confiscated assets can be used as payment in other sentences in which it is the main beneficiary. It is trying to do this in two ways: byinsisting that there is a similarity with the law of 2003 that permits the fines paid for drug trafficking offences to be used in the fight against drugs, and a wide interpretation of an article in the Penal Code under which assets that are confiscated in legal proceedings can be sold to cover the civil liabilities of the convicted offender. According to the council, the law does not specifically state that those liabilities have to be in the same case for which the assets were seized. And if payment has to be made in turn, the large number of sentences dictated in the local authority’s favour should put it at the front of the queue.