By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE first hearing of the Andratx planning corruption case opened at the Palma High Court yesterday with all four of the accused taking the stand.
The former Mayor of Andratx Eugenio Hidalgo was first to arrive followed by the former director general of planning for the Balearic government, Jaume Massot, the ex-Andratx planning inspector Jaume Gibert and the local council's former legal advisor Ignacio Mir.

The four face charges of falsifying documents, breaking planning laws and perverting the course of justice for which the anti-fraud prosecutor Joan Carrau, wants both the former Mayor and his municipal planning inspector to be sentenced to six years in jail if found guilty.

The Andratx planning corruption case involves 70 arguments and is expected to run for many months and yesterday's hearing was of charges against Hidalgo that a chalet of his in Andratx was built illegally on land classified as Rural Land of Scenic Interest (ARIP). Hidalgo told the court that his initial intention had been to build an agricultural warehouse “but without me realising, it was converted into a home.” The former mayor said that he had been issued with all the necessary planning permits and licenses and therefore considered the construction “totally legal.” But he admitted he did make a mistake in straying off the original plans and expanding two porches and apologised to the court. He added that he thought he could use the property “for Sunday bbqs”.

He admitted to having installed a tv “to watch the odd game of football” and to having removed a fridge, paintings and other items of furniture from the warehouse but denied he did so to conceal the fact that he used the property as home. “That was never my intention and I never considered using it as I did, was a crime,” Hidalgo said.
The former legal advisor to Andratx Council, Jose Ignacio Mir, yesterday denied being involved with the three suspects in any land purchasing deals and challenged them to “prove it.” The prosecution wants Mir to serve a year in jail for perverting planning laws.

Joan Massot, also a former Andratx planning chief, admitted to having advised a number of Andratx officials on questions of “procedure”, including issues relating to Hidalgo's house, after having left the local authority. “I used to correct the occasional judicial form,” he told the court and added that he supervised some of the work carried out by the Andratx planning inspector Jaume Gibert “because he was a complete disaster. I just wanted to help get things right.” Massot faces two years in jail if found guilty of perverting the planning laws.

Jaume Gibert, Hidalgo's former planning inspector was the last to take the stand yesterday evening.
He admitted to the court that he did not inspect the allegedly illegal property Hidalgo was building because it belonged to the then Mayor.
He said that while “he was not afraid” of the mayor he was “worried” about the implications of inspecting the construction, so he decided not to.
Gibert is also understood to have admitted to the investigation that he had been threatened with the sack by the mayor “if he did not sign certificates he wanted” and Gibert has also apparently admitted to various crimes to help the investigation and in exchange for a reduced sentence.

The case continues today.