Monday, March 27

Anti-corruption investigates millionaire commissions in purchases of sanitary material by the Madrid City Council

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office is investigating millionaire commissions obtained by two businessmen who mediated in the purchase of medical supplies with the Madrid City Council in March 2020, during the worst moment of the pandemic and a few days after the state of alarm was decreed. The investigation is still trying to determine how one of those two businessmen, Luis Medina Abascal, son of the Duke of Feria and Naty Abascal, contacted the City Council, which during those days was busy closing contracts to acquire protective equipment against the virus. .

Anti-corruption has kept investigation proceedings open since the end of 2020 to follow the trail of six million euros (for two contracts totaling 11 million) that went to the two intermediaries who facilitated the arrival of masks and antibody tests from China to protect the personnel who worked in emergencies at the Madrid City Council. Until now, investigators suspect that the commission obtained by Luis Medina Santana is around one million euros, while another businessman friend of his, Alberto Luceño Cerón, managed to pocket five million in the same operation, sources close to the investigation have revealed to research.

The specialized unit tracks evidence of document fraud, tax crime and money laundering in the actions of both, according to the same sources. A few weeks after the pandemic broke out, Luis Medina Abascal would have contacted the City Council official who was in charge of purchases on three or four occasions by telephone to tell him about a business friend of his, specialized in importing textile material from Asia, and inform him of the material that could be sold to the Consistory. He told it in a statement before the prosecutor in early 2021, the person who coordinated the acquisition of the material in the Almeida Government and who appeared before Anti-Corruption as a witness.

According to the investigation, the actions of the youngest son of the fair duke and Naty Abascal would have been reduced to those calls to pocket a million euros of public money at a time when the dead were counted in the hundreds daily.

According to that account, those first calls brought Alberto Luceño Cerón, a friend of Luis Medina, into the City Hall and put him in contact with the person who coordinated the purchases of material in the Almeida Government and which were processed through the company public funeral of Madrid. In the documentation that appears in Anticorruption, it is stated that these proposals were ratified by the Board of Directors of the municipal funeral home, which was chosen to seal the contracts because unlike the City Council, the public company could advance public money to guarantee the contracts. Among the awards being investigated, the first amounts to 6.2 million euros and was intended to buy FFP2 and KN95 masks; a second lot of €4.6 million was made up of nitrile gloves; and a third, of 3.9 million, was used to acquire a self-diagnostic test. It was a material that all administrations were trying to import at a time when international markets had become souks where the first to guarantee payment took the merchandise.

Sources from the municipal groups confirm that then, during the toughest months of the pandemic, they gave their approval to all the material purchase proposals that came from the City Council and that they also consisted of using the funeral company to speed up the procedures. The urgency and chaos of those days made it impossible to audit each of the contracts. In total, the Madrid City Council formalized 72 contracts through the municipal funeral home for a value of 42.1 million euros, according to data from the Court of Auditors.

The first order (of the three that were ordered through the two investigated businessmen) was for graphene masks (a higher quality than usual) that were distributed among the City Council staff who worked more exposed to the virus, such as the municipal police, firefighters and the Samur. The second of the contracts caused the end of the relationship between the City Council and the businessman Luceño Cerón, as concluded from the statement that the City Council official made before the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. The gloves delivered were of a much lower quality than agreed and the intermediary stopped answering the phone. The official spoke again at that moment with Luis Medina Santana so that he could warn her friend that they were looking for him. Finally, the City Council was able to directly require the employer to return the advance, which Alberto Luceño repaid within a period of between 48 and 72 hours, always according to the story of the Almeida government official. The third contract (formalized before the worst quality gloves arrived and the City Council broke relations with these businessmen) provided the City Council with self-diagnosis tests in exchange for 4.6 million.

November 2020: the investigation begins

The investigation to try to determine the destination of the six million euros of these public contracts began in autumn 2020. On November 26, the Madrid City Council received a request from the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. He requested the contracts, the minutes of the Board of Directors of Funeral Services of Madrid (SFM) and the composition of said board. Three weeks later, the Consistory sent the documentation to the unit specialized in prosecuting corruption.

In a second request, on December 30, 2020, the prosecutor Luis Rodríguez Sol asked the City Council that the person who coordinated the purchases deliver his telephone and instant messaging messages of the dates of the purchases, as well as the messages from his address corporate email. The information was sent from the City Council to Anticorruption on January 25, 2021.

After the opening of the investigative proceedings by the Prosecutor’s Office, the three contracts drew the attention of the Court of Auditors. The emergency procedure by which they were approved was the usual one in the different administrations at that time and was covered by the declaration of the state of alarm decreed by the Government of Spain. The objective was to speed up the acquisition of material by institutions in dire straits and with international suppliers auctioning the material to the highest bidder. The material imported by businessman Luceño Cerón belonged to a company based in Malaysia, called Leno, although the material came from China.

Until now, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has come across contracts in different administrations that presented exorbitant profits due to the world shortage of material, which made the product enormously more expensive, and which benefited from the concessions hand-picked, authorized by the administrations to speed up their acquisition in a period of very high mortality from COVID-19 infections. In many cases, prosecutors have had to shelve the investigations after concluding that the seemingly unethical businesses at a time of global suffering have no criminal charge because no legal limit was crossed for their conduct, since the state declaration alarm empowered the various governments to avoid public tenders even if the amounts were millionaires. In the case of the commissions derived from the two aforementioned contracts for masks and Anti-corruption antibody tests, it continues to investigate.

No experience in the healthcare market

Neither Luis Medina Abascal nor the businessman Luceño Cerón had experience in the medical device market. Luis Medina Abascal, a regular in gossip magazines, appears as the sole administrator of Tula Creative Studio, based in Barcelona and dedicated to consulting in the field of advertising, as well as campaign design, since 2014.

Weeks after his intermediation before the Madrid City Council, in May 2020, Luis Medina created Sextante Trade Mark, dedicated to intervening in the trade of “diverse products”. The contracts investigated are from a couple of months before. went to the address that appears as the headquarters of this company in Madrid, but the person who opened the door denied that the luxurious apartment in the center of the city houses any company. This medium has transferred to Luis Medina through third parties the interest in collecting his version, but the businessman has refused to give any explanation.

His friend Alberto Javier Luceño Cerón is a businessman who a decade ago held the direction of the European School of Management and Business in Madrid. According to the Mercantile Registry Bulletin, he has been the sole administrator of a company dedicated to “commercial intermediation or commission sales of various products, both nationally and internationally” since June 2020. This last company was set up a few days after of Luis Medina Abascal constituted his own and both after both had managed to close that business with the Madrid City Council. has repeatedly called Luceño Cerón and sent him the content of his query, without receiving a response.