By Humphrey Carter

THE National Police yesterday arrested the former Majorcan Unionist Party's Island Councillor for Sport and Youth Affairs, Mateu Cañellas, as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged misuse of public funds to apparently buy votes at the last elections in 2007.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, the Majorcan Unionist Party's former Palma City Councillor for the Environment and ex-director of the municipal water and refuse board Emaya, Cristina Cerdó, was also arrested when she presented herself at the National Police station at 2.30am on returning to Majorca from a trip.

These two latest arrests are all part of a fresh investigation into alleged political corruption which has rocked Majorca, “Operacion Picnic”, and, for the most part involves current and former members of the UM, the Majorcan Unionist Party.

According to sources close to the investigation, an order for Cerdó's arrest was issued after some of her former top ranking employees were questioned by police.

Last week, Paula Cortes, ex Environment Coordinator for Palma City Council and Number 4 on the UM's list for the municipal elections in 2007, was arrested as part of the operation investigating alleged “financial irregularities” in local authority public funding and is understood to have pointed the finger firmly at Cerdó for the alleged misuse of public funds.

She was still in police custody yesterday.
Cañellas, who arrived at the National Police station in Palma clearly upset by the latest development, has already been questioned in connection with other ongoing investigations into the alleged misuse of public funds by other members of the Majorcan Unionist Party, such as the former party leader and Balearic Minister for Tourism, Miguel Angel Nadal and the former party leader, President of the Council of Majorca and Balearic Parliamentary Speaker, Maria Antonia Munar.

The former Island Councillor for Finance and the Economy, Miguel Angel Flaquer, has also been implicated in one of the alleged corruption scandals.
So far, Cañellas has denied all the allegations and protested his innocence and is expected to do so again when the police get around to questioning him.

However, with local elections just around in the corner in May, another investigation into alleged corruption involving former and current members of the UM party, which was once part of the current coalition government, is not going to do much for their election chances with the party's image seriously damaged.