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OPERATION PÚNICA

Madrid water company was used in Púnica graft case, inquiry shows

Court papers indicate that Canal de Isabel II funded work to improve image of ex-premier

The administration of former Madrid regional premier Ignacio González, of the Popular Party (PP), allegedly used money from two government agencies to pay for work to improve the online media profiles of González and two top aides.

The allegations are part of the ongoing High Court investigation into the Púnica graft case, which affects former officials in Madrid and other parts of Spain.

The Civil Guard found three envelopes containing €82,000 in €50 bills in a search of Púnica fixer Alejandro De Pedro’s home

Judge Eloy Velasco lifted the seal on the proceedings last week, and EL PAÍS has had access to court papers indicating that the Canal de Isabel II regional waterworks company and computer agency Agencia Informática ICM were unlawfully used to fund image improvement campaigns for certain politicians.

Besides González, who presided the region between September 2012 and June 2015, the other alleged beneficiaries of the campaign were his justice and education commissioners, Salvador Victoria and Lucía Figar.

Besides funding this reputation-enhancing work, the judge suspects that the water corporation also manipulated public contracts, inflating the real amounts to free up money for a slush fund for the Madrid branch of the PP. This secret fund was emptied out by Púnica mastermind Francisco Granados when he left his position as secretary general of the Madrid PP, said party sources.

Esperanza Aguirre announcing her resignation last Sunday. EL PAÍS

Adrián de Pedro Llorca, brother of Alejandro de Pedro, the man who owned the online media network tasked with improving the politicians’ public images, has told the judge that part of this job was paid for by Canal de Isabel II. Another witness who worked for De Pedro has confirmed this information, saying she was asked to make an annotation for €140,000 owed to them by the Madrid government, to be paid by Canal de Isabel II.

De Pedro was allegedly also paid by another regional agency, ICM, which answered to Salvador Victoria. During a search of De Pedro’s home, the Civil Guard found three envelopes containing €82,000 in €50 bills.

The Púnica investigation could ultimately also affect Esperanza Aguirre, a long-serving regional premier who was in office between 2003 and 2012. Aguirre – a veteran conservative politician and the first Spanish woman to be named an Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire – resigned her position as head of the Madrid PP on Sunday, citing the raft of corruption cases affecting the PP. She herself is not officially the target of any graft investigation.

English version by Susana Urra.

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