The Barcelona High Court has sentenced 17 people, some of them officials of the Barcelona City Council, to sentences of up to three years and ten months in prison, as well as fines and disqualification, for the crimes of bribery, urban prevarication, infidelity in custody of documents and false documents, in addition to threats, in the case of fraudulent licenses for tourist flats in the Ciutat Vella district.
Businessmen admit the corrupt plot of tourist apartments in Barcelona and that they threatened a councilor
The sentence considers it proven that high-ranking officials of the district collected money to irregularly grant licenses for tourist flats that did not meet all the legal requirements. During the trial, 15 of the defendants admitted the charges, and the Prosecutor’s Office lowered the sentence request (it had initially requested up to 20 years in prison) after reaching an agreement with these defendants.
The sentence indicates that one of those responsible for the plot is Heliodoro Lozano, former head of the technical services of Ciutat Vella, who has been sentenced to two years and six months in prison. Also Elena Ariza, former legal adviser, who has been sentenced to three years and six months. Joaquín Quílez, considered the intermediary between these officials and Apartur (the main association of tourist apartments), has been sentenced to three years and almost ten months.
In June 2005, Barcelona City Council approved a special plan to regulate tourist flats. The council prohibited the opening of new apartments of this type, but allowed those homes where this activity was carried out to continue doing so, provided that they previously obtained a municipal planning license for change of use.
To obtain it, certain requirements had to be met and whoever approved the change of use was a team dedicated exclusively to this task. It was in that team where the plot that granted the licenses fraudulently was articulated. Six of the convicted officials belonged to this working group.
Threats to public office
In June 2007, Itziar González and the manager, Mercè Massa, arrived at the Ciutat Vella council and tried to put an end to the irregularities that existed in the granting of these licences. It was then that Quílez and her partner made the decision to intimidate the municipal architect, the councilwoman and the manager, to whom they sent threatening letters. González even left politics after this episode.
The Barcelona City Council has celebrated that there is finally a conviction for the case. Despite this, he has “deeply regretted” the “slowness of justice”, which “has aggravated the suffering of the people affected”.
“From the council we want to value the task of the whistleblowers -in this case Lourdes Conesa and Itziar González- of cases of corruption like this: they are a key piece in the fight against fraud that too often are exposed to reprisals both in the professional as well as the personal sphere.