The General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) has addressed the Criminal Court 3 of Arrecife to ask for explanations for the latest delay in the case of La Bufona, which judges the promoters of an urbanization built in part on protected land to the outskirts of the capital of Lanzarote. The promoter of the Disciplinary Action of the governing body of the judges thus gives way to a claim made on June 30 by the complainant of this case, Gonzalo Murillo, owner of land that was occupied to build the houses where they reside, among others , the current mayor of Arrecife and president of the Popular Party (PP) of Lanzarote, Astrid Pérez, or the prosecutor Miguel Pallarés.
The contradictions about the umpteenth delay in the criminal case that affects the chalet of the mayor of Arrecife
In that complaint, Murillo referred to the information published by Canary Islands Now on June 24 on the contradictions surrounding the paralysis of the procedure during the ten months that elapsed between July 2021 and May 2022. A delay that adds to the innumerable ones that the La Bufona criminal case has suffered since its opening more than 22 years ago and that led to the fact that, in a first trial annulled for formal reasons, the sentences imposed on the promoters of the urbanization were reduced significantly, as a delay of five years and seven months was considered undue.
The versions of the judge in charge of this abbreviated procedure, Margarita Gómez (replacing the head of Criminal Court 3, who abstained), and the Government of the Canary Islands and union sources on this latest delay do not coincide. All part of the letter that the magistrate sent to the Common Council in May in response to a request for information from that body as a result of another complaint from the complainant. In that reply, Gómez denied that there had been a “disproportionate and undue” delay since he assumed the procedure “with the exception” of those ten months. And she attributed it to the unpaid leave of the official in charge of its processing since the matters had not been distributed. In response to a question asked by this newspaper through the communication office of the Superior Court of Justice of the Canary Islands (TJSC), the judge specified that in that report she recorded “solely and exclusively” the data provided by the court, whose procedural address corresponds to the lawyer of the Administration of Justice (former judicial secretary).
The General Directorate of Relations with the Administration of Justice of the Government of the Canary Islands, on the other hand, explained that during that period there were three long-term casualties in the Criminal Court 3 of Arrecife, but that all of them were covered “in time and form”, according to the usual procedures that do not extend more than two months. Also the union sources to which Canarias Now went confirmed that an official had been in a situation of temporary incapacity in that judicial body for ten months, but that her leave had been covered in less than 40 days, according to the data that they had been able to consult internal level.
Given “the inconsistency” of what was declared by the magistrate in her report to the Diputación del Comun and “what was collected in the journalistic news and reported by the General Directorate of Relations with the Administration of Justice of the Government of the Canary Islands and by union sources”, the complainant of the case of La Bufona, Gonzalo Murillo, had requested the opening of preliminary investigation proceedings by the inspection service of the CGPJ, the service in charge, under the authority of the Permanent Commission, of the tasks of verifying and controlling the functioning of the Justice Administration services.
Days before sending the letter to the Judiciary, the owner of land occupied by the La Bufona urbanization had also addressed the chief magistrate of the Arrecife judicial district and had urged him to request clarification on these facts from the Criminal Court 3. Murillo fears a false closure of the case. “The crimes already recognized would be the least of it, the most important being the negligence committed in the investigation of the case and the unjustified delays,” he pointed out in the writings submitted to different entities.
The first trial of La Bufona was held in 2015 and resulted in a six-month prison sentence for the defendants (promoters Antonio Caro and Federico Echevarría) for a continuing crime against land use planning (for having built on rustic land in protection of jable), although later the Court of Las Palmas lowered it even more (up to two months in prison, replaceable by a fine of 1,200 euros) when recalculating the undue delays (about six years). A penalty that the rapporteur judge defined as “purely symbolic, not to say ridiculous”. In their indictment, from the end of 2011, the Prosecutor’s Office asked for four years in prison for them.
The trial was finally annulled in July 2018. The Court of Las Palmas upheld an appeal and decided to return the procedure to the state it was in 2011 because the owners of the houses had not been cited as civilly responsible This judicial body maintained that , by appearing as witnesses and not as “injured” (with the presence of their lawyers at the hearing) they had been deprived of the opportunity to defend their position in relation to the partial demolition of the houses that that conviction required.
After that annulment, a new abbreviated procedure was opened that was completely paralyzed between April 2021 and May 2022, the date of the order in which the judge accepts evidence requested by the parties to subsequently set the new trial for November.
In the writings that the complainant of La Bufona has submitted to different instances, he emphasizes that, in his opinion, the owners of the houses should have been cited as criminally responsible, instead of civilly responsible, for carrying out illegal works. Murillo maintains that the owners expanded their homes on protected land years after signing the public deeds of sale and that, therefore, they acted as promoters.
The home of the president of the PP of Lanzarote remains intact almost a decade after the Canary Islands Agency for the Protection of the Natural Environment ordered its partial demolition in a resolution that is firm, since it was never appealed by the current mayor of Arrecife. The technicians of the Government of the Canary Islands verified that expansion works had been carried out in that chalet until 2005, five years after Pérez had bought it.