More than ten years after the Malaya corruption scandal broke out in Marbella, the last fugitive Carlos Fernández has been located and arrested in Argentina.
The former councillor was detained in the early hours of last Friday at his home in Rivadavia, a small town in the province of San Juan, near the Chilean border.
The arrest came after Fernández’s defence lawyers had written to the Spanish courts asking them to declare that the statute of limitations for the offences he was wanted for in 2006, including embezzlement and accepting bribes, had expired. In other words, they believe that legally enough time has gone by since the initial investigation for him to return to Spain without having to go to prison.
After his arrest his defence lawyers said that he had turned himself in, although the Argentinian Federal Police denied this, saying that they had had Fernández under surveillance for a week up to his arrest.
This discrepancy appears to have been explained by the version given by Fernández’s brother and lawyer in an interview this week with SUR. He said that the arrest was all part of a strategy to end his eleven years on the run.
According to Antonio Fernández, the Argentinian police had been tipped off to force the arrest which now means that the Spanish courts have to provide information as to whether his brother can still be prosecuted after all this time.
Based on the information provided by the Spanish authorities, the Argentinian judge in charge of the case now has a month to respond to Spain’s calls for extradition. Meanwhile Fernández is being held in Chimbas prison in the province of San Juan.
Camino de Santiago
Carlos Fernández had been on the run since June 2006, when he escaped a second roundup of suspects in the massive local corruption scandal known as Malaya.
The first raids in March that year had seen the arrests of the Malaga ringleader Juan Antonio Roca, the then mayor, Marisol Yagüe, and deputy mayor, Isabel García Marcos, among others.
Fernández was suspected of distributing cash handouts, received by Roca in the form of bribes from business owners, along with Yagüe and García Marcos. Both were found guilty and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. It can be assumed that Fernández would have faced a similar penalty.
However he was never arrested. When police found him not at home, he told them he was walking on the Camino de Santiago. He was instructed to turn himself in to the nearest police station, but never did.
Apart from being wanted in the Malaya investigation, Fernández had already been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for embezzlement in a previous case and he featured as a suspect in a third investigation apart from Malaya.
The apparent inability of the authorities to track him down has led to rumours that he was allowed to escape by the Spanish authorities in exchange for becoming a police informant. Judges, prosecutors and police officers involved in the case have always denied this.
Some time after his arrival inSan Juan, Fernández met the Argentinian former model and journalist Carla Coppari, whom he married. His wife has said that Fernández’s mother flew to Argentina with his birth certificate so they could be married legally. The couple have two children, who have Fernández as their surname.
His wife also said that he had not undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance as reports in the Argentinian press initially stated.
For some years Fernández ran a business coaching consultancy in which his surname appeared as Hernández.
The former councillor was detained in the early hours of Friday at his home in a small town in the province of San Juan, near the Chilean border.
His defence said that Fernández, who had formed a family in Argentina and undergone several operations to change his appearance, had given himself up voluntarily to the police.
The arrest came after his defence wrote to the courts asking them to declare that the statute of limitations for the offences he was wanted for in 2006, including embezzlement and accepting bribes, had expired, allowing him to return to Spain without having to go to prison.
However the Argentinian police had had Fernández under surveillance for a week up to his arrest.
A judge now has a month to respond to Spain's calls for extradition. Meanwhile Fernández is being held in Chimbas prison.