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CORRUPTION

Suspected Púnica ringleader laundered €4.4m via phony invoices

David Marjaliza also claimed to have won the lottery eight times between 2012 and 2014

Francisco Granados (left) and David Marjaliza.
Francisco Granados (left) and David Marjaliza. EL PAÍS

A constructor considered one of the masterminds behind the Púnica corruption case laundered at least €4.4 million between 2004 and 2006 using phony invoices.

David Marjaliza is a childhood friend of Francisco Granados, a former senior official in the Madrid regional government. Both men are under scrutiny for allegedly hatching a major bid-rigging scheme that extended to Madrid, Valencia, Murcia and León.

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.

The probability of the same person winning the lottery twice in a year and a-half is one in 43 quintillion

Of the 51 people who were arrested on October 27 in a Civil Guard raid against the ring – including six mayors of Madrid municipalities and the head of León’s provincial authority – only Marjaliza and Granados remain in preventive prison.

A report drawn up by the Spanish Tax Agency and sent to state prosecutors claims that Marjaliza’s numerous businesses received invoices from at least nine companies for services that never existed.

The report is part of the investigation headed by High Court Judge Eloy Velasco, who has lifted the seal on the case.

The origin of the Púnica case – the name is a reference to Granados, which means pomegranate tree in English, or Punica granatum in its Latin scientific name – is a tax investigation into Marjaliza and Granados’ Swiss bank accounts, whose existence came to light in December 2013.

After the anticorruption attorney asked the Tax Agency to investigate further, it also emerged that Marjaliza was winning the lottery with remarkable frequency. Between December 2012 and March 2014 the builder declared eight winning tickets worth a combined €257,412.

Investigators have calculated that the probability of the same person winning the lottery twice in the space of a year and a-half is one in 43 quintillion.

The investigation also shows how, in 2007, Granados sold his friend four plots of land in Valdemoro at higher-than-market prices, making a profit of at least €1.4 million on the transaction. The land was rezoned while Granados was mayor of Valdemoro, between 1999 and 2003.

Granados joined the regional government of Madrid in 2003, under then-premier Esperanza Aguirre of the Popular Party.