'El Charly' when he went to court on March 15. | Isaac Buj - Europa Press


Carlos Cortés, 'El Charly', was arrested on March 13. One of the Guardia Civil's Operation Checkmate targets, he was ordered to prison, accused of drugs trafficking on a major scale and of money laundering. The president of the Balearic federation of gypsy associations, he previously spent fourteen years in prison for drugs trafficking and extorsion. He was released in 2017, having - as he says - fulfilled his debt to society. "I left in 2017 and started a new life, away from drugs trafficking and crimes."

In the prison in Palma he reads the local press and so is aware of developments since his arrest, and he has been speaking from the prison. "Many things are being said that I don't like, especially because they are dirtying the names of innocent people."

By implication, one of these people is Jero Mayans, a Vox councillor at Palma town hall. The Guardia Civil are said to be investigating meetings between Vox representatives and residents of the Son Banya shanty town. El Charly explains that families in Son Banya contacted him about regular power cuts. He then spoke with Jero Mayans, to tell her about these cuts and to see if she could do something. "Nothing more, that's all."

As to the report presented by the Guardia Civil, he insists that he is completely innocent. "I am innocent and I am going to prove it. I want to clear my name because everything that is being said is terrible."

The summary is very explicit and accuses him of large-scale drugs trafficking. In this regard, El Charly refers to tapped phone conversations that have been "misinterpreted". "From time to time we received a lot of food from the food bank for the most needy families - gypsies, Moroccans or whoever they were. When there was talk about pallets or oil or oranges, this wasn't speaking in code but references to the food bank. But the Guardia Civil believe it was about drugs." This might sound somewhat fantastic, but he insists that it is the truth.

Joaquín Fernández, aka 'El Prestamista', the Lender, was also arrested on March 13 but subsequently released. The Guardia summary points to El Charly's relationship with El Prestamista. Of this, he says that he asked Joaquín for money. "But it wasn't for me. It was for a third party."

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One of the developments since his arrests is an allegation that he laundered money both through the gypsies' federation and a football club in Asturias, Real Avilés. Investigators have drawn attention to "a series of trips and meetings" involving the club president, Diego Baeza González, which could have been part of "a possible money laundering operation".

Sr. Baeza has not been investigated or detained. The club has issued a statement flatly denying that Real Avilés Industrial has ever been used for money laundering, referring to an agreement with the previous club president and to a purchase option of around 80,000 euros that El Charly had because of this inherited agreement.

El Charly refutes the allegation: "I have never used the gypsies' federation or the Real Avilés football club to launder money. I repeat again: I neither traffic drugs nor launder money."

The summary highlights a visit to a relative's home and the presence of a Larry Mora. El Charly says that he doesn't remember him. "I went to take some food and then I read in the report that the Guardia Civil say that this man is the contact of drugs traffickers in South America."

There are also statements from another relative maintaining that he (El Charly) had earned "millions". "It's an invention of that person, although I know that no one is going to believe me."

For him, "the whole thing is a nightmare". "I have lost more than six kilos in a few days because of how bad things are for me. I can't sleep at night, thinking about all this. It's awful."