More than five years ago Esperanza Aguirre burst into tears in front of the media, with dozens of microphones a few centimeters from her face and with the main television and radio stations in the country live. She cried because her former right-hand man in the Community of Madrid, Ignacio González, had been arrested in the Lezo operation and that was “a very, very hard stick” for her. The almighty leader of the Madrid PP was leaving the National Court at that moment after testifying in a trial for corruption, that of the Gürtel plot, in which she had dodged a bench inhabited by the ‘frogs’ of which she denies, but which she commanded during years since Puerta del Sol. Judge Manuel García Castellón’s decision to leave her out of the trial for the irregular financing of the Popular Party is one more dribble by Aguirre in the legal cases that have investigated and even sentenced the corruption that for years flourished at his around.
Aguirre did not know anything and the children come from Paris
In the last few hours, court number 6 of the National High Court has closed and left ready for trial a key part of the Punic corruption operation: the investigation into the irregular financing of the Popular Party of Madrid. The one that Aguirre presided over for years and the one that, according to the judge, irregularly financed the 2007, 2008 and 2011 campaigns, although the two oldest have already prescribed and only the last one can be judged.
Some of her closest collaborators will be on the bench, such as Francisco Granados or Beltrán Gutiérrez, but neither she nor her successor, Ignacio González, will sit. Because according to the judge, those campaigns were irregularly financed, but she had no reason to know. And if she talked about it with González and acknowledged that she “may” have exceeded the budget in one of the campaigns, it is because she could suspect it, but she did not know it for sure.
A dynamic of ignorance about what was happening a few meters from his office and in his own electoral campaigns that is added to half a dozen legal cases in which Aguirre has avoided an accusation or in which, directly, he has seen from the barrier of witnesses how his closest collaborators received requests for imprisonment and even firm prison sentences.
The Gürtel plot broke out in February 2009. Previous proceedings and separate pieces to investigate the activity of corrupt businessmen and politicians in public administrations controlled by the Popular Party. A framework that began to function at the end of the 1990s and that nested in the great Madrid fiefdoms of the PP while Esperanza Aguirre governed the Community and presided over the regional formation. Aguirre coined in 2010 her famous statement about this case: “I feel especially satisfied to have been a very important part, the cause, of this case being uncovered.”
There was corruption in Madrid, Majadahonda and Pozuelo de Alarcón, according to the final judgment in the case, and several lawsuits are pending for the branches of Gürtel in Boadilla del Monte and Arganda del Rey. And there was also corruption in the regional executive of Esperanza Aguirre of one of her top collaborators, Alberto López Viejo, who was firmly sentenced to almost 28 years in prison.
As confirmed by the Supreme Court, López Viejo charged commissions in exchange for favoring Francisco Correa and his companies both during his time in the Madrid City Council and later in the Community. In this second case, Justice focused the corruption on “the award of contracts related to institutional or commemorative events attended by President Esperanza Aguirre, in favor of the companies” of the plot. She did so “in exchange for some bonuses that were passed on as the amount invoiced to said companies, making services more expensive, with the consequent extra cost for them, and, consequently, for CAM,” says the sentence.
Aguirre was never charged in the Gürtel plot, but she has had to testify in one of her trials. She did it in the first big trial of the plot, baptized as ‘Epoca I’, in 2017, admitting cost overruns in party acts but holding López Viejo responsible.
The Lezo operation, directed by court number 6 of the National High Court, which is also in charge of the Punic plot, led Ignacio González to provisional prison in 2017 and cast the shadow of suspicion on Canal de Isabel II, the golf course built in Canal and the City of Justice, among other things. Several of these pieces are already on the verge of trial with the Prosecutor’s Office launching their accusations and requests for jail against illegalities committed, supposedly, when Esperanza Aguirre was president of the Community of Madrid and the regional administration promoted these projects.
Last year, the judge in the case prosecuted Ignacio González for adjudications associated with the construction of the Canal de Isabel II golf course. A project that had strong neighborhood opposition from the inhabitants of the area and that was developed under Aguirre’s mandates: the first awards were made in 2003 and the irregular capital increases between 2006 and 2007, among other illegalities to which he pointed the investigating judge. Only between 2006 and 2012, during Aguirre’s mandate, there was a booty of more than half a million euros.
The failed macroproject of the City of Justice was another initiative that, although prior to Esperanza Aguirre, has ended up on the bench for a string of illegalities allegedly committed during her time as regional president. On the side of the defendants of the National High Court will be Alfredo Prada, a former counselor of the Aguirre government noted for leading the strategy to manage hundreds of millions of euros in contracts and awards in an obscure and irregular manner to carry out a pharaonic project that, more than A decade later, the executive of Isabel Díaz Ayuso has recovered.
The Iron Gate Hospital
In 2008, Esperanza Aguirre inaugurated the new Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Majadahonda in front of Juan Carlos de Borbón and Sofía de Grecia. By then, according to the investigators, two irregularities had already been committed: the hospital center had been set up without the compulsory licenses and, in addition, more than a hundred double rooms had been converted into single rooms.
The name of the former Madrid president appeared in both cases and, except for a last-minute change, she will be able to follow the development of both from the sidelines. In the case of licenses, the Prosecutor’s Office has already presented its indictment in which it requests two and a half years in prison for the former mayor of Majadahonda, Narciso de Foxá, and two other municipal government councilors. The defendants, according to the Public Ministry, did not carry out “any type of action or measure aimed at the protection or restoration of the infringed urban legality, nor sanction”, despite the fact that they knew that the hospital operated without two mandatory licenses.
It also managed to avoid the imputation requested by Anticorruption in the case of the ghost beds. Last January, the Madrid Court confirmed the decision of the investigating court not to charge the former president, explaining that a political leader cannot be held criminally responsible for an irregularity “by the mere fact of the position or position that a specific person holds in the organization, no matter how high it is”. For the Prosecutor’s Office, however, the order that made 135 beds disappear from the Majadahonda Hospital was “issued at the request of the President of the Community of Madrid on the date of the events.”
The escape in Gran Vía
In April 2014, Esperanza Aguirre left her car in the lane of Madrid’s Gran Vía reserved for buses while she took money from an ATM. Several agents of the Municipal Police criticized her attitude and went to fine her when she started and drove away, at that moment throwing the motorcycle of one of the policemen to the ground. “You are going after me because I am famous,” she told the agents according to the complaint they themselves filed.
The leak went around the Madrid courts many times before ending up in the final file. A court understood that the former Madrid president did not know that she was being persecuted by the Police and that she, therefore, could not be incriminated, but the Provincial Court ordered that the case be processed as a misdemeanor trial. Along the way, the Transparency and Justice association linked to the retired commissioner José Manuel Villarejo brought public accusation and maintained contacts with her to limit the shock wave of the case.
The result was a file due to the effects of the judicial reform promoted by the PP in 2015, one year after the incident. The changes introduced in the Penal Code by the Government of Mariano Rajoy decriminalized the offenses and the case against Aguirre, therefore, was outside the capacity of action of Justice.
There is another case that is in the investigation phase and whose future is not foreseeable. As reported by elDiario.es, a court in the Plaza de Castilla in Madrid is investigating the sale of a Goya painting by the former president’s husband, accused by his brother of simulating the donation of the painting and not distributing the money he obtained afterwards. . The investigating judge decided to file the case even before the challenge presented by the plaintiff, Aguirre’s brother-in-law, was resolved, but the Madrid Provincial Court ordered the reopening and focused precisely on the magistrate’s actions.
It is a case in which the Prosecutor’s Office appreciates indications of tax crime in the sale of the work of art, but for now the investigating judge has rejected this possibility, alluding to the fact that there are no reports from the Tax Agency that point in that direction and rejecting a “prospective investigation” into the husband of the former president of the Community of Madrid. Her file order, now revoked, exonerated Esperanza Aguirre and denied that the regulations for the protection of artistic heritage had been violated. “It is completely unfounded,” she said in that order, because the alleged influence in relation to her husband’s painting “is incompatible with the necessary processing required by any rule and the prior delegation required in terms of legislative decrees.”