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CORRUPTION

Púnica graft investigation ensnares another top Madrid official

Suspects in bid-rigging probe point at Salvador Victoria, regional government's number two

Salvador Victoria talks to the press outside the Supreme Court in August 2013.
Salvador Victoria talks to the press outside the Supreme Court in August 2013.

The name of another top official in the Madrid regional government has cropped up in connection with the Púnica case, a bid-rigging scheme that was broken up in late October with the arrest of 35 people in several provinces.

The Púnica ring is believed to have unlawfully awarded as much as €250 million in public contracts whose beneficiaries had been predetermined by the ringleaders after accepting bribes from the corrupt bidders.

Telephone recordings, messages and testimony from suspects in the case point directly at Salvador Victoria, the number two official in the Madrid regional government, where he is justice commissioner and a trusted aide to regional premier Ignacio González.

José Martínez Nicolás, former CEO at Agencia Informática y de Comunicaciones (ICM), a regional agency presided by Victoria, told the investigating judge that the latter ordered him to make sure ICM paid €10,000 to a businessman named Alejandro de Pedro Llorca, presumably for work he did to improve the online image of several Madrid officials.

The origin of Operation Púnica was the discovery of Swiss bank accounts that at one point held €5.8 million

De Pedro Llorca was one of 35 individuals who were arrested in October, and remains in custody on suspicion of being one of Púnica’s ringleaders.

Besides Salvador Victoria, investigators are targeting José Miguel Moreno Torres, a former mayor of the outlying town of Valdemoro (he is the third mayor of the municipality to be implicated in Púnica), and Mario de Utrilla Palombi, the mayor of Sevilla la Nueva.

Moreno Torres took office in 2003 when his predecessor Francisco Granados, considered the mastermind behind Púnica, became the right-hand man to then-regional premier Esperanza Aguirre.

Granados has been behind bars since his arrest in late October. Besides him, police arrested several Madrid region mayors and the head of the provincial authority of León, as well as various businesspeople and civil servants.

Telephone recordings, messages and testimony from suspects point directly at Salvador Victoria

The origin of Operation Púnica was the discovery of Swiss bank accounts held by Granados and David Margaliza, a businessman and childhood friend of Granados. Swiss authorities informed Spain about indications of “aggravated money laundering operations” through accounts in which both men held a joint €5.8 million at one point.

Despite the mounting evidence against them, Victoria, Moreno and De Utrilla enjoy “aforado” status, meaning that the lower courts cannot act against them but must redirect the case to the Superior Court of Madrid, in this case.