THE mayor of Benalmádena has caused controversy after granting the town’s highest civil honour to two constructors implicated in the Marbella corruption scandal.
Both Rafael Gómez, owner of the Sandokán construction company, and Cristóbal Peñarroya, owner of the Grupo Peñarroya company, were both arrested on suspicion of bribery in the second phase of Operation Malaya – a huge scale crackdown on town planning crimes in Marbella – earlier this year.
Now, they find themselves at the centre of another storm after Benalmádena mayor Enrique Bolín controversially chose to award the pair with medals of honour during the Costa del Sol town’s annual Spanish Constitution Day (December 6) celebrations.
Peñarroya received the Medal of Commercial Merit after he built the all-inclusive Holiday World resort on the outskirts of Benalmádena while Gómez was awarded the Medal of Social Merit for building the town’s Xanit private hospital.
Señor Bolín said: “Benalmádena is awarding the developers who have invested money in the town and created wealth and jobs for its people.”
Speaking about Operation Malaya, which has seen more than 60 arrested on charges of bribery and corruption including former Marbella mayors and councillors, he said: “This case could take 10 or 12 years [to reach its conclusion]. We may not then be of this life.
“We are all guilty of something. It is one thing being suspected of something and another being found guilty.”
Opposition political parties in the resort slammed the decision to award the pair while they are currently on bail. The socialist PSOE party chose to boycott the event at the town’s casa de cultura, which saw a further eight business men and women awarded. Instead, the party issued a statement that congratulated the all recipients of the town’s civil honours – except for Peñarroya and Gómez.
Conservative Partido Popular representative Jesús Fortes said: “While a shadow of doubt exists over these two people, now is not the moment to pay them homage.”
Both constructors are currently on bail after their arrest on suspicion of paying former Marbella town planning chief Juan Antonio Roca huge sums of money in exchange for building licenses in the glitzy Costa del Sol resort.
Gómez was held after he allegedly paid Roca – considered to be the mastermind behind Marbella’s urban corruption scandal – 600,000 euros over two years in exchange for building licenses.
Peñarroya is accused of paying 35,000 euros to Roca for the approval of a building agreement.