18 Nov, 2023 @ 13:54
4 mins read

Malaya madness: How a James Bond legend, German countess and famous singer were all dragged into the biggest corruption scandal in Marbella’s history

IT was one of the biggest ever scandals to rock the costas.

The infamous Malaya case uncovered a €2.4 billion embezzlement ring that involved dozens of councillors, a series of mayors, a famous flamenco singer, a German countess and at one point even former James Bond star Sean Connery as a side act. 

The scale of the corruption proved so pervasive that control of Marbella town hall had to be temporarily handed over to a caretaker administration appointed by the Junta until local elections could take place in 2007.

The historic crimes, which took place between 1991 and 2006, are now being re-told in a smash hit true crime series on Spanish national TV. 

The documentary, available to stream, speaks to those involved in the case, including judges, witnesses and journalists. 

Below, the Olive Press takes you through the biggest players in the Malaya case. 

Juan Antonio Roca 

juan roca
Juan Antonio Roca was behind one of Spain’s biggest ever corruption rings
TripleAsean connery e
Sean Connery was inadvertently dragged into the scandal before being cleared of any wrongdoing
A new documentary by RTVE delves into the Malaya case

Very much the puppetmaster of the Malaya plot, Roca was born into humble beginnings in Cartagena, Murcia, in 1953, before moving to Marbella in 1991 after his development company Comarsa was declared bankrupt.

Once through the golden arches he enjoyed a meteoric rise starting as the then mayor Jesus Gil’s chauffeur to becoming the councillor for Urban Planning for 11 years until 2003.

While there, he launched an unprecedented campaign of accepting bribes in exchange for building licences from a string of developers. 

In just four years alone (from 2002 to 2006) a total of 19 agents are said to have paid more than €33 million to Roca and his cohorts.

It is alleged that during his time in office, Roca amassed a fortune worth at least €125 million, including a string of properties, a huge collection of exotic animals and a private art portfolio that included a Miro, worth millions, that he kept in the loo.

A dedicated website was set up to auction off €75 million worth of his properties, cars, works of art and furniture in an effort to claw back enough cash to settle civil liability claims from Marbella Town Hall and the tax authorities.

It was through Roca that Bond star Sean Connery’s name was dragged in, with allegations of tax dodging and fraud over the sale of his famous villa, Malibu, on the Golden Mile. 

It was eventually demolished to make way for 74 luxury apartments and the Scottish actor was eventually cleared of any involvement in the case.

Roca was eventually jailed for 20 years and paroled after he had served 12.

Julian Muñoz

Julian Munoz Top  corrupt politicians e
Julian Muñoz

A former waiter, Muñoz – nicknamed ‘Cachuli’ or ‘chancer’ – also successfully rose from nothing to become the mayor of Marbella in little more than a decade. 

As the boyfriend of the famous singer Isabel Pantoja, his face frequently appeared in gossip magazines throughout Spain. 

During his short term of office he publicly fell out with Roca who had him ousted as mayor. He was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for perverting the course of justice, embezzlement and bribery, but released in 2021 due to a ‘severe and incurable illness’. 

Despite this claim, he has been regularly spotted at the Real Padel club in Marbella and various golf clubs, enjoying cheeseburgers and glasses of wine. 

Isabel Pantoja

isabel pantoja
Isabel Pantoja

Famous singer and ex-girlfriend of Muñoz, Pantoja was charged in a separate case and faced a huge fine and three years in prison, for helping Muñoz launder the money he received in bribes. 

The star was also accused of obtaining large sums of money during her relationship with the former mayor.

In 2014, seven years after her arrest, she was handed two years in prison for money laundering and ordered to pay €1.15 million in fines. 

She spent less than 18 months behind bars before being released on licence. 

Marisol Yague

malaya Marisol Yague e
Marisol Yague

A former singer, Yague was appointed as mayor by Roca following a vote of no confidence against Muñoz in 2003. 

According to investigators she was Roca’s puppet, visiting him at his offices on Mondays to receive instructions and she allegedly took €1.8m euros in bribes from him.

In October 2013, she was sentenced to six years in prison and handed fines of more than €2 million. 

She went to prison in January 2016 and a year later received another two-year sentence for embezzlement for using granite and marble from the municipal warehouse to renovate her house, called La Madrugada. 

Isabel Garcia Marcos

The former deputy mayor, Garcia Marcos was ironically a one-time socialist councillor and ferocious critic of corruption in Marbella. 

But, perhaps inevitably, she eventually became one of Roca’s favourite councillors and was caught saying ‘I don’t sign a piece of paper, or even read one, if I don’t get money’. 

Police found an incredible €360,000 in cash at her home when she was arrested in 2003, leading to a three-and-a-half sentence, along with €700,000 in fines. 

Montserrat Corulla

Montserrat Corulla (centre)

Nicknamed the Lady of Marbella, the Catalan lawyer was accused of being one of the main stooges for Roca. 

Branded the mala mas sexy (sexiest baddy) of the case by gossip magazines, it is thought she was in charge of Roca’s investments and under his supervision became responsible for his money laundering in Madrid and Marbella.

She was sentenced to three-and-a-half years for money laundering in 2016 and was handed a mammoth fine of €30 million. 

Pedro Tomas Reñones Grego

A retired footballer who once captained Atletico Madrid he became a councillor in Marbella in 1999 for the Grupo Independiente Liberal (GIL), founded by long-time Atletico president, Jesus Gil y Gil. 

After the local mayor was arrested he briefly took office in 2006 as an interim mayor, but was soon arrested himself. 

He was sentenced to five years and six months in prison in 2016 on fraud and bribery charges. 

Jose Avila Rojas

Born in Granada, Avila Rojas is another of the many contractors involved in the case. 

He was sentenced to a total of three-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay €16 million in fines. 

Tomas Olivo Lopez

Among his many projects, business mogul Lopez owns a number of shopping centres including La Cañada in Marbella and the controversial Centro Nevada, in Granada.

He had been facing five years imprisonment and fines of up to €4.8 million after being investigated in the case, however he was eventually absolved in 2018 and went on to win a staggering €165 million from the Junta, whom he sued for paralysing works on a business complex. 

Expats caught in the web

It’s not just the Spaniards that got caught up in this huge operation.

A total of 11 foreigners were also embroiled in the scandal.

These included the German countess Alexandra Sybilla Sofie Grafin Von Bismark, Roca’s employee, Swedish born Karin Marika Mattson, Sergio Gilbert Garcia, born in Gibraltar, and Salvador Gardoqui Arias from France who was known to be one of Roca’s front-men.

Laurence Dollimore

Laurence has a BA and MA in International Relations and a Gold Standard diploma in Multi-Media journalism from News Associates in London. He has almost a decade of experience and previously worked as a senior reporter for the Mail Online in London.

GOT A STORY? Contact [email protected] or call +34 951 273 575 Twitter: @olivepress

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