WITH “his hand on the Bible” the Balearic Interior Minister, Jose María Rodriguez, yesterday denied that he blew the whistle on the investigation into alleged real estate corruption in Andratx by tipping off the former Mayor that he was going to be arrested. Rodriguez yesterday appeared before the Balearic cross-party Institutional Affairs Committee to explain his relationship with the disgraced mayor Eugenio Hidalgo who was arrested on the morning of November 29. The two men spoke over the phone just hours before the Guardia Civil serious fraud squad swooped on Andratx Town Hall.
The Balearic Interior Minister, responsible for Balearic security and safety matters, categorically denied on at least 11 occasions that he tipped Hidalgo off about his pending arrest. He said he did not know what the Guardia Civil were planning. “I swear, with my hand on the bible, that I neither knew the mayor was going to be arrested nor that the town hall was going to be raided by the Guardia Civil,” he told the committee. Three people were initially arrested on November 29, Hidalgo, his municipal planning inspector Jaume Gibert and the Balearic director general for planning, Jaume Massot. Massot was released with charges the day after his arrest while Hidalgo and Gibert were released on bail after 17 days in police custody. They still face a maximum of seven charges including bribery and money laundering. All three deny the charges but the investigation, which has involved Interpol in the hunt for overseas bank accounts continues, as does the search for a possible mole who tipped the suspects off a few days before the police operation was mounted. According to the Guardia Civil, key evidence was apparently tampered with or destroyed. Rodriguez became caught up in the scandal after it was revealed that, not only did he meet with Hidalgo 48 hours before his arrest, he also spoke to him by phone just hours before he was taken into custody. Rodriguez was also subjected to a two-week tap on his personal mobile phone as a secondary investigation was launched to try and identify the alleged mole. odriguez, and the ruling Partido Popular, have categorically denied that he or any other member of the government tipped Hidalgo off but the opposition are refusing to be silenced. Opposition party members of the committee repeated their calls for Rodriguez to resign and that Balearic president Jaume Matas be called before parliament to explain the PP's alleged involvement in the scandal. Balearic socialist party spokesperson, Francina Armengol, not only accused Matas of using Rodgriguez as a “scapegoat” but, in cohorts with the PP's spokesperson in Congress, Eduardo Zaplana, of failing to act in the best interests of the Balearic public. She called on PP opposition leader Mariano Rajoy to take action. Rodriguez hit back claiming that it was Armengol who was party to privileged information about the operation and in turn, leaked it to the press.
The political battle over Andratx will gather momentum in the New Year as the parties launch their local election campaigns while the investigation in to alleged corruption continues.