Lanzarote/Arrecife (BG) -Authorities aiming to get to the bottom of the much publicised Lanzarote and Fuerteventura corruption scandal have this week focused their attention on a number of high profile figures. In an effort to obtain crucial evidence operations have started to intensify.
As part of the investigation over a dozen agents from the Policía Judicial, accompanied by prosector Ignacio Stampa, travelled to Arrecife on Tuesday. After entering the town hall the team spent nearly 7 hours sifting through documents, files and, in particular, invoices from 2008 onwards, in the hope of unearthing valuable evidence. During the operation they arrested three men who are being detained in custody until their court hearing, which should be held sometime over the next 48 hours.
One of the arrested is Carlos Sáenz Melero, current auditor of the Arrecife, San Bartolome and Teguise municipalities, and former auditor of the La Oliva municipality of Fuerteventura (1998-2008). He is being held on suspicion of embezzlement of public money, forgery of public documents and breach of trust in relation to suspected fraudulent payments made by the administration. Saenz remained in the town hall for the duration of the raid as agents searched his office. The raid finally concluded at around 17.45h as agents left the building with boxes of files and Saenz was transferred to a nearby station in a police car that had been parked outside the hall. Searches have also been carried out in the municipality of San Bartholomew where Saenz was also auditor.
The two other men arrested as part of the operation are also well known political names. Javier Betancort is current president of del Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen del Vino de Lanzarote (Regulating Council of the Denomination of Origin of the wine of Lanzarote) and former San Bartholome Councillor for Finance (2003-2007). José Miguel Rodríguez is former Arrecife City Coucillor for Finance (Concejal de Hacienda de Arrecife). Rodriguez, a former member of the PIL has previously been arrested twice under two separate phases of the “Union” investigation meaning this is his third arrest in connection with the corruption scandal.
The preparation for this investigation began several months ago at the beginning of the year when the prosecution received an anonymous tip informing them of suspected irregular payments in the city of Arrecife during the period 2008-2011. It is believed the tip came from a source with inside knowledge of the alleged payments. Following the tip off Saenz, and a number of other others, were summoned by the prosecutor and directed to answer to the claims. A number of documents were also summoned. Based on the analysis of these documents and cooperation with the prosecutor of Fuerteventura the authorities feel they posses sufficient evidence to back up a serious raid, like the one seen Tuesday.
Today all three of the detained men will have testified in court and, depending on the proceedings, decisions on the next course of action will be taken. The proceedings are under a gagging order and will be heard in el de Instrucción número 4 de Arrecife and el Juzgado Número 5 de Puerto del Rosario . The investigation remains ongoing and further arrests have not been ruled out.