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Tamaño letra

PP in Valencia pressures indicted mayor of Manises to step down

Crespo is under investigation for allegedly looting a water treatment plant

The mayor of the Valencian town of Manises, Enrique Crespo, handed in his resignation on Thursday morning following pressure from his own Popular Party (PP) after he was indicted in an embezzlement scandal at a public water treatment company.

Crespo, who also gave up his post as deputy provincial administrator in Valencia, said he would temporarily refrain from all party duties until the case was over.

Until Thursday, Crespo had been the only mayor serving in Spain with the dubious distinction of being indicted.

He ignored calls to step down from the opposition Socialists last December after he had been charged.

The Emarsa water-treatment plant was shut down in July 2010 after being declared insolvent. Last November, an investigating judge determined that its managers looted some 25 million euros from the plant's finances by submitting false bills for items and services rendered, including machinery and buildings that never existed. The inquiry also revealed that Emarsa paid for jewelry and luxury goods for employees. The PP had run the plant since the 1990s.

Crespo was among 27 people who have been indicted in the Emarsa case.

Vicente Ríos, the investigating judge, has also ordered a full audit of Crespo's personal finances after tax investigators discovered he had more money than corresponded to his earnings as a public official.

Last Christmas, Crespo was all smiles after he and other PP officials celebrated winning the annual El Gordo (the fat one) multi-million-euro lottery. The PP reportedly bought 796 décimos, or tickets, corresponding to the winning number, which was awarded close to 100 million euros. According to Alfonso Rus, the Valencia provincial administrator, Crespo held "a lot" of décimos.

The Socialists in Valencia immediately filed a complaint with prosecutors alleging that Crespo was trying to conceal his assets by claiming he had winning tickets.

Valencia premier Albero Fabra, who pledged to clean up the PP's image in the region when he assumed office following the resignation of Francisco Camps last July, had reportedly been pressuring Crespo to resign before the scandal could affect Valencia's PP heavyweight mayor, Rita Barberá. Barberá and Rus had tried to keep Crespo on board.

"Crespo did what he had to do and I publicly recognize that," Barberá said on Thursday.

For his part, Crespo complained he hadn't been called to defend himself before the investigating judge. He also griped that the investigation contained "factual errors and fallacies," such as the tax investigators' allegations that he received some 480,000 euros in bonuses from the regional government when in fact that amount was 48,000 euros.

Meanwhile, José Císcar, the deputy regional premier praised Crespo for resigning by saying that it honored him as a "politician and a person."