surinenglish

The loot is trickling back, a drop at a time

  • Of the 38 people ordered to pay money back to the town hall, only Juan Antonio Roca and José María del Nido have paid significant amounts

  • Marbella has recovered barely 15 million of the 300 million euros that are believed to have been stolen from the municipal coffers

The money poured out, but it is barely dripping back. In the 15 years during which Jesús Gil and his sucessors governed Marbella they systematically ransacked the municipal coffers, leading in the end to innumerable legal proceedings and court sentences which decreed that the town hall had the right to compensation.

The amount it is due from criminal sentences and financial penalties is 294 million euros, which gives an idea of the extent of the plundering which took place. That is still a provisional figure, because dozens of cases are still pending and some sentences are open to appeal. However, of that sum, the council has received barely 15 million euros so far.

The fact that most of those sentenced have declared themselves insolvent; the difficulty in locating their assets, either because they have been hidden abroad or because they are disguised beneath a network of companies, and the scarce resources the town hall has to deal with this matter means that the recovery of the money depends more on the willingness of those sentenced than the ability of the public powers to ensure that the compensation paid to Marbella is anything more than symbolic.

The municipal archives show that 256 people and companies have been sentenced or are currently immersed in judicial proceedings related to the corruption in Marbella. Leaving out those who only have to pay the legal costs, those who have to pay fines and those who have been sentenced but have not been ordered to pay compensation to the town hall, there are 38 individuals and five companies who have been ordered to pay back money which was stolen or to pay compensation. In most cases the responsibility for repayment is shared, because the majority of sentences are “solidary” or joint.

Of all those found guilty, only a handful have paid anything or the authorities have succeeded in finding assets which can be used to meet their responsibilities to the town.

In fact, only two have paid significant amounts and they have only done so because it would be beneficial to their situation in some way. One is Juan Antonio Roca, who was recently conceded third-grade imprisonment after 12 years in jail, and the other is lawyer José María del Nido, who was found guilty in the 'Minutas case'.

Roca made payments to meet his responsibilities in the 'Saqueo I case', when he was applying for his first leave after spending over a decade behind bars; Del Nido made most of his payments because he had applied for a pardon and thought, at that time, that he stood a good chance of obtaining it. He was, however, disappointed.

Roca, who has been sentenced to pay 62 million euros plus the corresponding interest, has paid Marbella council just over nine million euros in five payments, after the sale of part of his assets which were embargoed during 'Operation Malaya'. All the money paid so far has been in connection with the 'Saqueo I case', as that was the first sentence to be classified as definitive.

Latest sale

The latest sale of Roca's assets took place in December, when his 82-hectare estate in Murcia, La Loma, was sold for 18.5 million euros. Marbella council is waiting to receive some of these funds but it is not certain that it will be given all of them. It is possible that the money will be used for other purposes, such as paying lawyers' fees, court charges or meeting some of Roca's obligations, including the fines he has to pay to the State in connection with other definitive sentences.

Meanwhile Del Nido, who was ordered to pay the town hall 2.7 million euros for the 'Minutas case' and 300,000 euros for the 'Fergocon case', has made five payments - the latest was on 22 January - totalling 1.9 million euros.

In reality the cases of Roca and Del Nido, even though they still owe Marbella council millions of euros, are the exception to the general rule.

Budget benefit

The government's 2018 public spending plan announced this week and still going through parliament includes a clause that will help Marbella recover more stolen funds. Property and assets seized during different court investigations could be paid back in the form of public facilities thanks to an agreement announced by the mayor of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, this week.