ANDRATX SCANDALBy Humphrey Carter
TWO of the five people arrested by the Guardia Civil serious fraud squad as part of its Operation Voramar investigation in to alleged corruption in Andratx were released on bail yesterday after being questioned. But further arrests are not being ruled out as the Guardia Civil are apparently investigating as many as 40 individuals.
Yesterday, as key Andratx council employees were questioned by the police, the ex-conservative Partido Popular party Mayor of Andratx, Eugenio Hidalgo, who stepped down immediately after his arrest on Monday, the Balearic director general for Planning, Jaume Massot, and the Andratx council municipal works inspector, Jaume Gibert, remained in police custody.
It is thought that it was his wife and Hidalgo's architect who were arrested and then later released but the Guardia Civil would not reveal their identities.
However, judicial sources did confirm that further arrests are not being ruled out as the investigation into alleged corruption, money laundering, perverting the course of justice and planning irregularities in Andratx, which apparently started some four months ago, is set to continue and perhaps widen.
Members of the Guardia Civil serious fraud squad worked through Monday night combing Andratx Town hall and, according to the acting Mayor Jaume Porsell, the search did not finish until 7.20 yesterday morning.
Andratx Town Hall eventually returned to normal and was reopened to the public.
The shock waves of the Andratx scandal continued to ripple across the Balearics yesterday.
The Balearic Chief Prosecutor, Bartolomé Barceló, would not be drawn on whether any other local councils are under investigation. But he warned if and where there is crime the public prosecutor will act.
Andratx Town Hall sources claimed yesterday that Hidalgo knew the Guardia Civil were poised to pounce and that fraud squad officers who were part of Operation Malaya in Marbella have been involved in the operation. Yesterday, the Guardia Civil continued to unload seized documents and valuable items at their headquarters in Palma.
Last night, Hidalgo's lawyer said he is confident of demonstrating that his client is innocent.
MAYOR WON LOTTERY TWICE
EUGENIO Hidalgo once claimed he was a very lucky man after he and his brother won the Christmas and New Year lotteries in the mid 90*s. It was with his winnings that he has claimed he started his car dealership and apparently financed his two impressive houses in Andratx, not to mention the Audi A-8 and Porsche the former member of the Guardia Civil from Badajoz drives.
While much of the focus of the investigation is on the mayor's alleged planning and construction malpractice, his alleged lottery wins may also be looked into as part of the probe into accusations of money laundering.
Apparently, using lottery tickets to launder money was not uncommon in the 90*s before the introduction of the single currency.
For example, an individual with a lot of cash to hide would offer an authentic lottery winner well over the actual amount won in exchange for the winning ticket.
As who ever happens to be in possession of a wining ticket is eligible for the prize, it was a perfect solution for those wishing to launder money.
The new owner of the winning ticket could then claim that he legitimately won the money on the lottery - hence his bank balance.
In the year 2000, however, the Spanish government introduced a law obliging the three main lotteries to publish the identities of all those who win over 3.000 euros.
It was three winning tickets belonging to Hidalgo's family which attracted the attention of the fraud squad and this is now one of the many possible lines of investigation.
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