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POLITICS

Socialist Party expels Madrid chief over tram project scandal

Tomás Gómez was formerly the mayor of satellite town Parla

He oversaw works that ultimately pushed the local council into bankruptcy

Tomás Gómez at the helm of the Parla tramway in November 2005.
Tomás Gómez at the helm of the Parla tramway in November 2005.

Leaders of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) have expelled Tomás Gómez, head of the party’s Madrid regional branch and a candidate in upcoming elections, over an investigation into a construction project he was in charge of while mayor of Madrid satellite town Parla.

The decision is a direct result of a probe by the state attorney’s office and the National Police’s economic crimes unit (UDEF) into the building of a tramway in Parla. The project overran its budget by €41 million, and investigators are looking into possible ties between local politicians, technicians and the companies that operate the service.

Tomás Gómez, who was mayor of Parla between 1999 and 2008, was informed on Wednesday morning that he will not be continuing in his role. An interim committee has been appointed while a replacement is found.

The decision was made “to avoid hurting the party’s image,” said sources at national party headquarters

Sources at federal party headquarters said the decision was made “to avoid hurting the party’s image.”

With local, regional and general elections coming up this year, the Socialist Party (PSOE) is making efforts to show voters that it will not tolerate corruption in its ranks, even though this case is still at the investigation stage.

Both the PSOE and the ruling Popular Party (PP) are struggling to contain the rapid rise of Podemos, a new anti-austerity party that portrays both main political forces as corrupt and self-serving.

The same Socialist sources said national leaders were not convinced by Gómez’s explanations regarding the tramway’s cost, which ballooned from €108 million to €149 million, although the final tab including interest payments reached €256 million, pushing the local council into technical bankruptcy.

The changes to the original transportation project were made in 2006 and 2009. One of the other individuals under investigation, deputy mayor José María Fraile – a personal friend of Gómez and later mayor himself – is also a suspect in Operation Púnica, a major bribes-for-contracts scheme affecting several Madrid municipalities.

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