José María Rodríguez, under investigation for alleged links to Palma police corruption.

08-07-2016G. Esteban

José María Rodríguez, a former minister with the Balearic government, is scheduled to appear in court in Palma tomorrow morning to answer questions from Judge Manuel Penalva, who is investigating allegations of corruption in the Palma police force. These allegations include extortion and threats by certain officers - their targets having been business people from the nightlife sector - and extend to the involvement of senior politicians.

Rodríguez, now the ex-president of the Partido Popular in Palma (he resigned when he was cited by the judge), was minister for the interior in the Jaume Matas administration from 2003 to 2007. He was also, for a time, the national government's delegate to the Balearics during the administration of José Ramón Bauzá from 2011. He had to resign from that post because of implication in a different corruption affair.

His name has cropped up on numerous occasions during Judge Penalva's investigation, he having been described as the "architect in the shadows of a corrupt organisation" that was created to benefit certain PP politicians as well as some businesses, such as the Cursach group. He was, it has been suggested, involved in town hall affairs despite not holding any responsibility. An official from the town hall, who is in custody, explained this to the judge the day before Rodríguez resigned as PP president. (Being president of the party does not and did not mean any involvement in town hall affairs.)

Furthermore, a police officer registered a denunciation with the anti-corruption prosecution to the effect that the police union's representative (who has also been charged) had arranged meetings between Rodríguez and tourist police with the dual aims of capturing votes for the PP and of exhibiting once more his power over and control of the police.

This denunciation, made in August 2014, claimed that during the time that the PP was running the town hall (from 2011) there were well-known people who not only planned the structure of the police force but also had contact with leading officers in order to demonstrate who was controlling the force.

The judge has revealed that officers under investigation had used extortion and manipulation, had engaged in the destruction and concealment of evidence, in giving advice in advance of any police action and in favouring some business people to the disadvantage of others. In addition, there had been sex, drugs and alcohol parties run by certain business people as well as the sale of "objects" seized from street sellers by various police officers.

Rodríguez was forced to stand down as national government delegate in July 2012 when he was implicated in the long-running "caso Gürtel" corruption investigations. He was also cited in relation to the "caso Andratx", which led to the imprisonment of the former mayor of Andratx, Eugenio Hidalgo.

The judge in this latter case wanted to know if Rodríguez, then interior minister, had alerted Hidalgo to his arrest. There were records of phone calls two days before the arrest between Rodríguez and Hidalgo. Later there was a meeting involving the two of them and Jaume Matas at the presidential headquarters. At this meeting Matas is said to have told Hidalgo that something was going to happen and that he should resign. The following day - a Sunday - Hidalgo went to the town hall in order to destroy documents, evidence of which was found by the Guardia Civil. The judge on this occasion warned Rodríguez that he could be charged with giving false evidence.

With Rodríguez appearing in court because of the police corruption affair, there has been some support for him from within the PP. For example, Alvaró Gijón has said: "Obviously I believe in Sr. Rodríguez's total innocence." Gijón, like Rodríguez, resigned from the PP's executive in Palma (both had little choice but resign as the party's national headquarters demanded that they did). He has also been mentioned in connection with the police corruption investigation. Gijón remains a councillor in Palma and a deputy in the Balearic parliament.

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