The anti-corruption net thrown out by the District Attorney’s Office and Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police force in Sabadell on Tuesday has so far reeled in 12 arrests, with a further 26 people under investigation. Among the detainees is the city mayor, who also chairs the Catalonia Federation of Municipalities, Manuel Bustos, who has been officially named as a suspect in a case that involves other high-ranking members of the regional Socialist Party (PSC), including its number two Daniel Fernández.
The investigation centers on alleged payments of 120,000 euros a time made by companies wishing to do business with the city of Sabadell, which were charged as “down payments.” Prosecutors stated that these payments were then shared out between politicians and government officials. After the award of contracts, a further fee of three percent of their value would be paid to a lawyer’s office.
Both Bustos and Fernández voluntarily stepped down from their official duties with the PSC. “I am not considering resigning as mayor because I am innocent,” said Bustos. “I have nothing to hide and I will dedicate myself to recovering the honor of the city council and my own.” Similarly, Fernández is still a member of Congress and is due to take a seat in the Catalan parliament following last Sunday’s elections.
A person named as a suspect for crimes cannot hold these positions”
The scandal comes at a bad time for the PSC, which is at its lowest historical ebb after poor results in last Sunday’s Catalonia elections. Regional party leader Pere Navarro on Monday said the PSC’s priorities in this legislature would be “the deepening of democracy, transparency and the fight against corruption.”
Also implicated in the case are Bustos’ brother, a city councilor in Sabadell who also serves as first secretary of the PSC in the southern Western Valleys area, and Joan Manau, Sabadell’s urban planning chief. The Popular Party (PP) has also been dragged into the case: former councilor Jordi Soriano, who was sacked by the regional PP last year for “woeful management,” has been called to appear before a judge.
Regional PP leader Alicia Sánchez-Camacho called for Bustos’ immediate resignation as mayor of Sabadell and from the federation. “A person named as a suspect for crimes connected to urban development cannot hold these positions,” she said. Judicial sources stated that the investigation had borne fruit as early as October 19 but investigators elected to postpone the raids until after the regional elections.