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Property Fraud and Bribery in Marbella ,Spain sees 53 convicted

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Property Fraud and Bribery in Marbella ,Spain sees 53 convicted

Post  Panda on Sat 5 Oct - 23:58

Dozens convicted as Costa fraud trial ends with 53 convicted
Juan Antonio Roca jailed and fined after nearly eight years for property scam that resulted in entire council of Marbella being sacked and 30,000 homes built illegally

Former Marbellan mayor Marisol Yagüe was handed a prison sentence of seven years and a ban from holding public office Photo: SERGIO TORRES/AP
By Fiona Govan, Madrid
9:40PM BST 04 Oct 2013

One of the largest corruption scandals in Spain’s recent history has come to a conclusion, nearly eight years after it first came to light, with the conviction of 53 people for property fraud and bribery in Marbella.

Juan Antonio Roca, the former town planning chief and the mastermind behind the far-reaching corruption scandal that rocked the Costa del Sol resort was sentenced to 11 years in jail and fined €240 million (£200 million) after being found guilty on charges of money laundering, bribery, fraud and other offences.

He was blamed for running a network suspected of collecting €2.4 billion of laundered money for those involved, much of which has yet to be traced.

Two former mayors of Marbella, Julián Muñoz and Marisol Yagüe, were also handed prison sentences of two years and seven years respectively, and a ban from holding public office as well as fines of more than €2 million.

The court spoke of the “absolute dereliction of duties by the councillors put on trial, who bowed to the shady dealings of Mr Roca,” and concluded that building permits had been granted in exchange for bribes authorised in council meetings by councillors who received envelopes of cash.

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The scandal broke in late 2005 when an investigation dubbed “Operation Malaya” uncovered a network of bribes and corruption that saw Marbella’s town council granting building permits on land not designated for construction in return for kickbacks. During the previous decade it is thought that an estimated 30,000 of the 80,000 properties constructed — many of them sold to British buyers — were built illegally.

During that time Roca, 60, went from a jobless builder to head of planning at the town council and a multimillionaire with a vast art collection and a stable of racing thoroughbreds. Known as Mr Big, Roca had much of the elected town council on his payroll, as well some 70 businesses used to launder his ill-gotten gains. He has been in jail since 2006 when he was first arrested as the case broke.

In April 2006 the Spanish government took the unprecedented step of dismissing the entire town council and those who had unwittingly bought illegal properties were left in a legal limbo threatening to last years, unable to resell their properties and with the threat of demolition orders hanging over them. All but a handful of properties illegally constructed during that era were spared after a deal was struck in 2009 that allowed developers implicated in the scam to pay back their debts by giving the council land in exchange for legal contracts.

In all, nearly 100 people were charged in the Malaya investigation but of the 95 defendants at the start of the trial in September 2010, nine saw their charges dropped and a further two died before the trial ended 22 months later.

Rafael de Pozo, the former chief of Marbella police, was found guilty of abuse of public office and sentenced to 18 months in prison and a fine of €120,000. But the man blamed for leading Marbella’s town hall into the scandal will never face trial. The late Atletico Madrid football club owner Jesus Gil y Gil, who was mayor of Marbella between 1991 and 2002 and who installed Roca as planning chief, died in 2004 with dozens of corruption charges pending against him
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