surinenglish

Estepona town hall corruption inquiry finishes after almost 12 years

Police removing evidence from the Estepona home of one of the detainees (file photo).
Police removing evidence from the Estepona home of one of the detainees (file photo). / AFP
  • The investigating judge has interviewed 113 witnesses and 94 people continue under formal investigation over the 2003-2008 ‘Astapa case’

The news broke in June 2008 when police arrested then-mayor of Estepona, Antonio Barrientos of the PSOE party, other councillors and council workers after a tip off from two other Socialist councillors in November 2006.

Since 2006 a judge has been diligently carrying out an investigation before bringing the case to trial. Some 113 witnesses have been interviewed, 26 police reports written, 800 volumes of documents have been collated and the final report ahead of the trial is 226 pages long. Of those questioned, 94 are still formally under investigation. The inquiry has taken so long that three people being investigated have died.

Court documents show evidence of systematic irregularities in Estepona town hall from 2003 to 2008, under mayor Antonio Barrientos.

It alleges that there were three different accounting systems: one for the correctly declared finances; a second one covering the donations, sponsorships and other payments from those looking for favours; and a third one covering personal gifts made to town hall officials.

In one part, the court report says that of 1,056 reports of town planning offences over the period, only 212 resulted in fines, a loss of 43 million euros for town hall funds. The case will now go to trial.