Ten corruption scandals bubbling under in Andalucia

Power-hungry politicians and greedy businessmen tragically still rule in Spain, the country known as the ‘land of the kickback’. With new cases of corruption emerging almost weekly, Rob Horgan investigates ten scandals bubbling under in Andalucia

LAST UPDATED: 20 Nov, 2015 @ 17:48

FROM public figures laundering money to politicians taking kickbacks, Spain’s dirty washing regularly flutters in the breeze.

From training centres that do not exist to tourism companies with no employees, the laundry basket is filling up at an incredible rate.

But while disgraced royals and high profile mayors have been put through the wringer… sadly not everyone gets hung out to dry.

As the national elections approach and the watchword ‘corruption’ becomes one of the key issues to be debated, new scandals are being uncovered on an almost weekly basis.

While for decades the problem of taking backhanders and laundering money was brushed under the carpet and largely ignored, it is now all too apparent that almost everyone was at it.

Like moths to a flame, the country’s politicians have for too long been easily led astray by a simple brown envelope with euro signs flickering in their eyes.

And it is not just politicians, with leading businessmen, bankers and property tycoons all playing their part in the game.

Every corner of Spain’s economic sphere has been sullied in the past few years. And the scandals are as rife in Andalucia (if not more) than anywhere else.

Here the Olive Press offers 10 more cases of corruption that have largely flown under the radar.

  1. Animal feed greed

Brown cow lying in a field and looking at cameraTwo factories have recently been shut down in Sevilla for using diseased carcases to produce animal feed that was ploughed back into the human food chain.

Over two years, the Dasy production plants pulverised the bodies of sick livestock, producing over 20,000 tons of animal feed worth a staggering €6 million.

While the majority was sold for cat and dog food, some was distributed to chickens, cows and pigs, finally destined, of course, for human consumption,.

A dozen employers have now been detained on crimes against public health, smuggling, fraud, forgery and unfair market competition.

And the key figure accused of aiding the company? None other than the chief of Andalucia’s Animal Welfare in Sevilla, Luis Vazquez.

  1. Septic cemetery

Huelva-toxic-wasteNestled between two rivers in an idyllic spot a stone’s throw from a busy town centre, you would expect to find a rural Utopia.

However, this is anything but the case in Huelva where mother nature is fighting a losing battle against the largest landfill site in Europe.

With more than 120 million tons of toxic waste spread over 1,200 hectares of marshes, the Fertiberia and FMC-Foret chemical site constitutes one of the worst environmental scandals on the continent.

Producing up to 150 times the maximum legal level of radioactivity, Fertiberia has now been ordered to clean up its act and regenerate the land after it was deemed to be having ‘serious’ health impacts on nearby residents.

And – surprise, surprise – the owner of the company is none other than Juan Miguel Villar Mir, a former Spanish finance minister and Spain’s sixth richest man.

  1. Taking no prisoners

PrisonIt cost €117 million to build and €1,700 a year to run yet the Malaga II prison is mysteriously devoid of inmates.

Completed three years ago but never opened, the facility in Archidona is Europe’s largest ‘vacant’ prison, with 350,000 square meters and space for 2,000 prisoners.

But instead of homing the country’s criminals it has become a scandalous public money pit that deepens year by year.

Latest statements suggest the prison gates could be opened in late 2016. But until that day dawns more and more taxpayers money will be flushed down the clink’s pristine ablutions.

  1. Mine of misinformation

MineA company that won a contract to urgently clean up a heavily polluted mine paid off millions in backhanders to officials in return for winning the contract.

Judges are now investigating the circumstances behind how the firm Minorbis won the €25 million restoration contract in Aznalcollar.

Police believe the bidding process was rigged between the Junta and the company, ensuring that bosses and politicians both profited to the tune of millions.

While denied, rival company Emerita has provided documentary evidence of the scandal.

  1. Ghost airport

Ghost-airportThe courts are now investigating how a company was set up to run an airport that does not exist.

The airport in question, in Huelva, has no runway or terminal, yet Aeropuerto Cristobal Colon already has 11 board members, four from the town hall and one from the chamber of commerce who have so far reportedly split €500,000.

In addition, they are set to receive a further slice of the €82 million they are asking for from central government to better commercialise the Huelva region for tourism.

  1. Railtrack to nowhere

AVEIt is one of the most expensive tracks of railway that will never be used.

Incredibly some 77 kilometres of AVE rail track was laid between Antequera and Marchena, before the project was scrapped by the European Union.

Costing €279 million, the ‘Al AVE ghost’ line was abandoned after the UE slammed it for breaking environmental laws, in particular in building a viaduct over the protected Los Ojuelos lagoon.

European Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik demanded that the bridge be torn down as it disrupts the habitat of key breeding birds protected under EU law.

  1. High Court corruption

High-courtMost European countries have their fare share of expenses scandals but few are as high profile as the Junta’s monthly secret payout to High Court President Lorenzo del Rio.

It has emerged that the judge has been pocketing €1,300 a month for ‘living expenses and accommodation’ for the last 12 years.

This is despite Spanish law barring expenses to judges and prosecutors from regional governments.

The Junta payout is on top of his €90,000-a-year salary, and the payment has reportedly been kept off the books for over a decade – with no official payment being listed from the Junta.

  1. Money for old rope

Junta leader Susana Diaz has been left red-faced after it emerged a fellow minister was being paid €2,000 a month for a job he didn’t have.

Appointed director of Jerez’ flamenco centre in 2012, Luis Guerrero received €72,000 over three years while claiming he was unaware what he had been appointed to.

Described by political party Ciudadanos as ‘mafia practices’ Guerrero said he believed the additional funds were a ‘bonus’ to supplement his wage.

  1. Expenses leak

A water company is facing a backlash after a €100,000 ‘immoral’ expenses scandal was unveiled.

Sevilla utility company Ecija is being investigated for paying 20 mayors and councillors a combined ‘allowance’ of €100,000 each year.

Seen as being bribes for continuing business arrangements, the expenses are meant to cover travel to meetings but are also used for ‘entertainment’ purposes, ranging from cinema trips to bar tabs.

  1. Highway robbery

You may now be able to drive the entirety of the A7 coastal road to Barcelona, but it has come at a cost.

The maintenance company contracted to undertake the daily works is now on strike after a contract for 25 million remains unpaid.

While the Junta supposedly set this money aside it has apparently disappeared into a pothole.

Police are now investigating.

Andalucia’s track record of corruption makes for grubby reading


In 2001, the Junta allegedly set up a fraudulent slush fund with public money from the EU and Madrid, supposedly to help support struggling companies lay off workers.

However, this money was used in many other ways, particularly as kickbacks and to feather the nests of Junta executives and their families.

The so-called ‘reptile fund’ first came to light in 2008, when it emerged that the driver of Junta employment minister Javier Guerrero – known as the ‘cocaine chauffeur’ – set up two bogus companies and in the process took up to a million in grants.

Former Junta leader Manuel Chaves and 20 other officials have since been arrested on the order of super-judge Mercedes Alaya.

Training scheme scam Part I

A massive embezzlement investigation, part of Operation Edu, has so far led to nine arrests.

The investigation centres on government funds allocated to retraining programmes for the unemployed, where €3 billion was allocated while an unprecedented €2 billion was creamed off the top.

Training scheme scam, Part 2

The second scandal – also part of Operation Edu – involves the embezzlement of funds through fictitious training centres.

Under the scheme, millions of money was stolen in grants for bogus academies, which were set up in disused buildings.

It has emerged that in order to get official Junta sign off for monies released a company was used to set up an entire office with tables, chairs, filing cabinets, computers and even local volunteers, before packing it away the day after the inspection.


A cash-for-contracts scandal – known as the Malaya Case – saw around €670 million paid in bribes from municipal funds over three years in the mid-1990s on the Costa del Sol.

The largest-ever corruption trial in Spain concluded with former Marbella Town Hall advisor Juan Antonio Roca being sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined €240m for masterminding a network of real estate fraud and bribery.

In total, 53 people were convicted after a two-year trial, including former Marbella mayors Marisol Yague and Julián Munoz, who were sentenced to six and two years, respectively.

White Whale

Launched by Interpol, international money laundering operation – codename Ballena Blanca (white whale) – began in 2003.

With over €250 million allegedly passing hands, Marbella Town Hall was found guilty of accepting – and encouraging – bribes from property developers to build on protected land.

The pair behind it: the notorious Juan Antonio Roca and Mayor Marisol Yague.




An Eastern European crime syndicate – headed up by the ‘Polish Alcapone’ Ricardo Fanchini – tied a deal with Casares mayor Juan Sanchez in 2010.

Agreeing to let the gangsters build on illegal land, Sanchez allegedly received six-figure payoffs over five years.

With Fanchini and many of his cronies banged up stateside for money laundering and drug charges, Sanchez is now facing 18 years in Spain and a €1 million euro fine.

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  1. There was article in the Guardian yesterday about the upcoming Spanish elections and in the CIF, a poster wrote a very succinct and accurate account of why corruption is so prevalent in Spain.

    Once again those nasty little Romans are the source of the problem. The Roman system was and is today one of clan/family patronage. Contracts,appointments are awarded not by value or experience but simply by virtue of family and friendships. It is a totally accurate statement. I saw this in operation in Guadix many, many times. It is a cancer that unfortunately too many Spanish admit but then just shrug their shoulders and accept it.

    Of course this happens in other countries in Europe but never on the scale as in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece.

  2. When I stated in previous posts that the PSOE-led Junta de Andalucia have failed the region for over 30 years, this is what I meant. How do they get away with it? It difficult to understand why people keep voting for the same old PSOE-led Junta over and over again when they know they will get all the same results. There is a glimmer of hope now that the anti-corruption C’s have formed a pact with them but it is too early to know how much of a positive influence they are having.

    What a tragedy for the young, unemployed people in the region who could have benefitted from the training courses that never were. How many more people will they fail?

  3. The gypsy steals a chicken and is imprisoned promptly. Seven years after the ERE scandal came to light, Chaves, Griñan and Sarrias are still walking around free.