1706479108 Zaplana from untouchable to sitting on the bench

Zaplana, from untouchable to sitting on the bench

Zaplana from untouchable to sitting on the bench

It is said that Eduardo Zaplana received a tip that he would be arrested, but he didn't believe it. It was in 2018 that, after three decades in politics and after his time as president of the Generalitat Valenciana and the Ministry of Labor, he could not imagine that he could fall into the networks of the judiciary, as had happened to a dozen of his investigated advisers for corruption.

Zaplana, born 67 years ago in Cartagena, became mayor of Benidorm in 1991 with the vote of a renegade. It coincided with the time when he became famous for appearing in a recording of another alleged corruption case in which he said he needed a lot of money to live. Then it was polished. He became a skillful and deceitful politician. He introduced the Valencian Community to the era of large projects that marked the beginning of large regional debt. For decades it was untouchable. He controlled everything, he left nothing to chance, he surrounded himself with loyal people who accompanied him in his career.

However, this image of omnipotence, of impunity, was broken just over five years ago when he was arrested on allegations of bribery and forgery, among other things, over alleged bribes he received after the award of two important services: public concessions of ITV and of the wind farms of the Valencian Community. Only on the day when Zaplana was among the few missing during the arrest did his eternal smile disappear from his rarely pale face. He was temporarily imprisoned for nine months, after which the judge investigating the case decided to release him after he blocked 6.3 million euros in Switzerland and after he submitted five requests for release in which he claimed that he was suffering Leukemia.

From Thursday, Eduardo Zaplana will be in the dock for the first time in the so-called Erial case. And he will do so during the nearly 30 sessions that the trial will last, during which the alleged network, created with people he completely trusts, will be scrutinized to collect commissions, launder them and the illegal benefits associated with returning to Spain They have been acquired. Apartments, boats, land, vehicles, among others, as anti-corruption alleges. The public prosecutor's office is demanding that José María Aznar's former minister receive a 19-year prison sentence for the 20.6 million euros that, according to the investigation, were mobilized by the organization to which he also attributes the crime of being a criminal organization.

The origin of the research: Five typewritten and crossed-out sheets of paper were the starting point for the investigation. According to the prosecutor's office, these were found by a Syrian citizen who lived in a house that once belonged to Zaplana and who handed them over to Marcos Benavent, known as a money junkie after he began to cooperate with the judiciary to solve several corruption cases Properties. According to Anti-Corruption, the pages were a summary of the procedures carried out to obtain the ITV and wind farm concessions, with the amounts that bidders had to pay to win the awards.

The defendant: Joining Zaplana on the bench will be another former president of the Generalitat, José Luis Olivas, who prosecutors credit with completing the rigged bidding process and collecting part of the bribe, 580,000 euros. In fact, Olivas has already been convicted of forgery of documents and against the public treasury because, in order to justify the payment of this alleged bribe by the Cotinos, a false invoice was issued for the alleged payment of fees for work that never existed.

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Also sitting on this bench will be an alleged Zaplana frontman, one of his childhood friends, Miguel Barceló; the alleged financial mastermind of the conspiracy, Francisco Grau, the secretary of the former Minister of Labor Mitsouko Henriquez, his former chief of staff Juan Francisco García and the business brothers Vicente and José Cotino Escrivá, family of the former general director of the police officer Juan Cotino.

Concessions and Commissions: The investigation, which is in the hands of the Central Operational Unit (UCO) of the Guardia Civil, ensures that the tenders for the award were framed by establishing “subjective conditions” so that the Cotino companies could win the tenders “because provide them with the necessary informative information about the conditions and requirements favorable for its granting, to the detriment of other possible competitors, to limit competition as much as possible and ultimately to create the conditions in the highest political bodies for it to be possible . In its report, the public prosecutor's office points out that after the arbitration awards, the Cotino group of companies sold shares in the car dealerships, which brought it 86.5 million euros, “which justifies the high level of commissions”.

The operation: Through the conspiracy, the money from the bribes was transported through tax havens such as Luxembourg, Panama and Andorra. And for the return to Spain, “a corporate structure has been designed in charge of the collection of criminal funds and their transformation through various mechanisms aimed at concealing their origin and ownership in order to introduce the money into the financial circuit, thereby reducing the illegal “To exploit the organization's profit.”

The “absent” Zaplana: The now former regional president and former labor minister was extremely careful not to appear officially in the companies involved in the conspiracy. “In the creation and management of the companies, the involvement of Eduardo Zaplana remains hidden, who does not appear officially in the records of any of the companies, although he is present at the meetings that shape their creation and in the decisions taken.”, says the prosecutor, for whom, according to the investigation, all evidence points to the fact that the popular leader was the one who ran the network and benefited from the bites.

The diversity of witnesses: The list of witnesses that will pass through the hall of the fourth department of the Provincial Court of Valencia, which is deciding the case since there is no defendant with a public position that would certify it, is very diverse. Zaplana employees will come by, like the woman who cleaned one of the apartments bought in Madrid with allegedly illegal funds and assured that he was the only one who lived in the property and paid for it, even though it was never listed in her name was. The niece of the spy Francisco Paesa, who for three years was responsible for setting up companies in Luxembourg to receive more than 10 million euros from Spain and Switzerland and was allegedly of illegal origin, is also called as a witness. Former commissioner José Manuel Villarejo will also testify, who, in a commission of inquiry at the request of the PP, himself expressed doubts about the interest of the Socialists in the “annihilation of Mr. Zaplana”.

The seasoned bleacher: One of the main advantages of the indictment is the testimony of Fernando Belhot, the Uruguayan lawyer who replaced Paesa and was responsible for the “fiscal optimization” of the network's assets and who, as he said, always knew that Zaplana was dealing with what several times a year met, was behind the operation. Belhot delivered 6.7 million euros to the Asset Recovery Agency (ORGA), which is allegedly part of the 20 million that Anti-Corruption claims were fraudulently obtained.

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