Blackmail and scandal: a former police officer tried in Spain, Europe News & Top Stories
MADRID (AFP) – Former police chief JosÃ© Manuel Villarejo, whose revelations have shaken Spain’s political and economic elite, is on trial this week on charges of blackmail and corruption.
In recent years, dozens of powerful businessmen, senior officials, ministers and magistrates have been marred by scandals involving this dreaded ex-policeman in the heart of the so-called “state sewers”.
With an air of mystery, a gray goatee and a beret perched on his bald head, Villarejo, 70, is accused of secretly recording conversations with the rich and powerful to blackmail or discredit them on behalf of others prestigious clients.
Although Villarejo is involved in several cases, Wednesday’s (October 13) trial will only focus on three, all of which concern businessmen suspected of using his services to spy on both colleagues and competitors. .
The trial, to be held in San Fernando de Henares, near Madrid, before the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s highest criminal court, is expected to continue until January.
But many more are on the agenda in this sprawling and complex investigation known as the “Villarejo Affair”, some of which have drawn even more media attention for their scandalous nature.
“This first trial will be important in establishing the credibility of the Spanish judicial system,” said Manuel Bravo Perez, who has co-authored a book on the Villarejo case. “People are anxiously waiting to see what happens during the trial,” he told AFP.
If convicted of those first three offenses, Villarejo could face 109 years in prison, if prosecutors get what they want.
But the ex-police chief will attend the freeman trial since the court lifted his pre-trial detention in March, after serving three years behind bars in a Madrid prison.
Born into a humble family in southern Andalusia, Villarejo was “what you might call a ‘corrupt copper’ – corrupt because he started a private consultancy firm while still an integral part of the police. “Bravo Perez explained.
Several heavyweights of Spanish finance and industry have been accused of having used his services, such as the former boss of the BBVA bank Francisco Gonzalez or Ignacio Galan, CEO of the first Spanish energy group Iberdrola.
Since June, Galan has been under investigation for corruption and fraud after allegedly using Villarejo’s services to gather compromising personal information about Real Madrid boss Florentino Perez, who heads construction giant ACS.
The alleged objective was to prevent ACS from mounting a hostile takeover of Iberdrola.
40 terabytes of data
“Villarejo is a man who has always sought power, but whose powers that be have always needed,” said Bravo Perez, who has shone the spotlight on his many ties to Spanish political parties since joining the force in 1972..
In recent years, several senior politicians have seen their names dragged through the mud because of their alleged connection to Villarejo, such as former Interior Minister Jorge FernÃ¡ndez DÃaz, suspected of trying to smear political opponents.
Villarejo’s involvement with the High and the Powerful even reached the royal palace, damaging the former King of Spain Juan Carlos I after the policeman secretly recorded a conversation with his mistress in which she claimed he had pocketed money for a high-speed train contract with Saudi Arabia.
“He knows a lot of secrets” which are very often “unpleasant”, explained Bravo Perez, suggesting that there were probably many among the Spanish elite “who have to worry about what might come out of it, not so much for their own. criminal implications only for reputational damage “.
During their investigations, police seized over 40 terabytes of information, the equivalent of months of uninterrupted radio broadcasts, which Villarejo methodically collected year after year, all of which had enormous potential for blackmail or extortion. reputation destruction.