A member of Malaga’s fraud squad working on the lengthy investigation. :: GALINDO
They gave it a name in the old-fashioned tradition - by consulting a calendar of saints’ days. They chose Eladio. Which might not be as notorious as Malaya, ERE or Gürtel but it refers to the largest police operation in Spanish history.
Six years after that initial day, February 25th, the police have closed the case with 809 people suspected of buying fake qualifications.
‘Operación Eladio’ has reached both public and private sectors. Among those on the suspect list are 25 local police officers - two of them deputy inspectors - who were working in various towns in Malaga province, while in Cordoba and Seville there are 14 police officers and six members of the Guardia Civil (one of whom was a captain).
Nevertheless the largest profession of those thought to have bought the fake certificates (with 134 suspects) is private security, either as security guards or as directors of security firms. Among these is an ex-head of security for Malaga’s provincial government.
Also involved are five firefighters, among them one brigade chief; six postal workers; 13 health service workers; two ITV (MOT) inspectors; two bank managers and a second division football trainer. A dozen workers for Malaga’s municipal cleaning company Limasa are on the long list. According to the investigation they bought their qualifications to achieve a higher level on their pay scale.
In order to avoid an unworkable court hearing, the judge in charge of the case ordered each one of those accused to be processed individually. The head of Malaga’s second fraud squad and the longest serving investigator have confirmed that the majority of those accused - 632 - have now been charged.
‘Eladio’ began with a rumour, first spread in a gym, where members were heard saying that there was a place where qualifications could be bought without the need to put one foot in a classroom. The fraud squad investigation led to a training school in the city, run by an ex-teacher, then (in 2008) aged 60.
According to sources the ex-teacher had code names for each different piece of paper. The attention to detail and the high quality of forgery, using stolen official seals, has been stressed by detectives.
A degree was known as a string of sausages and cost 2,500 euros while other diplomas, - Fontaneda biscuits - cost up to 1,500 euros. Secondary education qualifications were named after a carton of Puleva milk and school leavers’ certificates were referred to as García Barquero cheese.
The ex-teacher’s supermarket is believed to have earned him as much as 1.6 million euros over a space of six years.