Friday, February 3

Businessmen admit the corrupt plot of tourist apartments in Barcelona and that they threatened a councilor

A corrupt network operated in Barcelona for years to process licenses for tourist flats in exchange for bribes. This has been admitted by officials, homeowners and two intermediaries. The latter have also acknowledged that they threatened the former councilor of Ciutat Vella Itziar González and the district manager and architect who, from within a corrupt administration, fought irregularities.

The case broke out 13 years ago and shows the hidden face of the tourist boom in Barcelona at the beginning of the century. The plot had as its epicenter Ciutat Vella, the central district of the Catalan capital and the most affected by the touristification that has expelled thousands of residents in recent decades. Both the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and most of the defenses have chosen to reach an agreement.

Of the 23 defendants in the plot, fifteen have reached agreements with Anticorruption, with which they will presumably prevent their entry into prison. Three other defendants, lower-ranking municipal officials, have been withdrawn by the Prosecutor’s Office. Only five defendants maintain their innocence and have chosen to go to trial. They are one of the alleged leaders of the plot, the former head of the Ciutat Vella legal department, Elena A., who is facing eleven years in prison, three interim officials and one owner.

Yes, the other two leaders of the network have reached an agreement with Anticorruption, the former director of technical services of Ciutat Vella Heliodoro Lozano, now retired, and the intermediary between owners and officials, Joaquín Quílez, who already had two convictions for irregularities in the processing of permits from the Barcelona City Council for premises in the Eixample and for notifying of administrative inspections in the case of police corruption in the Riviera and Saratoga brothels.

The pact involves the acknowledgment of facts by the accused in exchange for an ostensible reduction in prison sentences. From asking for 20 years in prison for Quílez, prosecutor Teresa Duerto has gone on to request four years and three months, which the intermediary has accepted. For Lozano the reduction has been nine years: from eleven and a half years to two and a half years in prison. The owners have accepted between six months and a year in jail.

In addition to the delay that the case accumulates, the prosecutor has based the reduction of sentences on the withdrawal of one of the crimes of prevarication and false documentation, considering that the “expedition” of the files did not exceed the line of the Penal Code. Except for surprise, the Prosecutor’s Office will ask at the end of the trial that they not go to prison as they do not add more than two years in prison. none of the penalties for the crimes to which they have been sentenced (bribery, prevarication, false documents, infidelity in the custody of documents and threats).

The corrupt plot was hatched as a result of the approval of an urban plan by the Barcelona City Council in 2008 that limited the opening of new apartments for tourist use in the Ciutat Vella district, which at the end of the last decade was already experiencing the effects of the mass tourism. The defendants who have agreed have admitted that in order to speed up the procedures to obtain the licenses, several owners contacted Quílez, who in exchange for a bribe guaranteed them that they would regularize their tourist flats.

Quílez then contacted Lozano and, after agreeing on an economic consideration, convinced him to “carry out the necessary actions to speed up the processing” of the files and “obviate” the defects in the applications, which in several cases were “of such an entity” that the license could only be denied, although it was eventually granted. The sum of bribes reaches 70,300 euros.

In addition, Quílez and her partner have acknowledged that they sent threatening letters written by her to González, an independent who was a councilor of Ciutat Vella at the proposal of the PSC, and to two other district officials so that the corrupt plot could continue to function. One of them was also first threatened by phone: “At the moment it is a warning but soon it will be a threat.”

Both defendants have admitted that throughout late 2008 and mid-2009 they sent three anonymous letters with various threats. “Bitch, you must burn in hell, it has taken time to prepare, but in the end you will turn, you only lack the pith like the bulls, you have sought ruin in the district, you must disappear from this world now,” they wrote to González , who left office the following year, estranged from the PSC and Mayor Hereu.

The architect had to be transferred to another district out of fear after receiving a letter in which she was warned that she was “monitored to the millimeter and with photographs it is proven.” “You will be given a deadline to request a transfer or we will take action. You are like an animal to us and we have a mission to carry out, in a short time you will see things that will happen around you, you will be horrified and it will not be fruit of chance”, prayed his letter.

“You do illegal things by refusing to sign files that are correct, the consequences that it can bring you are disastrous,” they threatened the district manager. Quílez and her partner have agreed to compensate the three threatened with 22,200, 50,000 and 10,000 euros respectively.