There has been no surprise. The Madrid City Council has withdrawn this Monday the accusation against those responsible for the alleged irregular sale of 1,860 protected homes of the Municipal Housing and Land Company (EMVS) to the Blackstone investment fund during the trial that takes place these days. The consistory under the direction of José Luis Martínez-Almeida considers that there is no criminal responsibility for the only two people who sit on the defendant’s dock: the former CEO of the EMVS Fermín Oslé and the attorney of Fidere Alfonso Benavides. The then mayor of Madrid Ana Botella and her government team had been released from the accusation.
The trial that began at the beginning of November has entered its final stretch with the presentation of the final reports and is seen for sentencing with the last word of the defendants. The position of the EMVS lawyer representing the City Council was to be expected after the latest movements in the case. “All the interventions of the lawyer of the municipal company are being to defend one of the defendants, Fermín Oslé, who was manager of the EMVS when the sale took place,” one of the lawyers of the allegations that you are participating in the trial. “It is surprising considering that at the time the municipal company made a statement of accusation against the operation that was forceful and that now it is distorting with each intervention that it is more of a defense lawyer than an accusation,” he insists.
It was the previous Government of Now Madrid with Manuela Carmena at the helm that appeared in the case in 2016 adhering to the complaint of the PSOE and the Association of Affected Persons. The president of the municipal housing company was then Marta Higueras –now a councilor of Recupera Madrid in the town hall–. Higueras justified it by arguing that there were “indications of crime” in the sale of social flats to vulture funds based on a report from the Chamber of Accounts and the conclusions of a legal report prepared by a law firm commissioned by its own team.
It is not the first time that the Government of Almeida has sided with Ana Botella in the sale of these 1,860 social flats. Shortly after arriving at the municipal corporation, in September 2019, the mayor of Madrid fired the then director of the legal services of the Municipal Housing and Land Company (EMVS), Paloma Herranz Embid, when she was preparing the appeal before the Supreme Court against the acquittal of the Court of Accounts (in second instance) that freed the former mayor of Madrid and seven senior officials of her government from a fine of 25.7 million euros for the sale of these social apartments to vulture funds .
The prosecutor asks for the acquittal
In his turn, the prosecutor Salvador Ortolá has requested the acquittal of Oslé and Benavides, considering that none of the elements of the type of crimes with which they are accused are present. Salvador Ortolá has harshly criticized the fact that the trial has focused on a “melodramatic tint” in relation to the social impact on those affected by referring, for example, to “suicides”, as mentioned in her statement by the spokeswoman for the victims, Arantxa Mejías, reports Europa Press.
“Here neither the City Council nor the mayor is being judged. It is not a political trial. We must leave out the political proclamations and slogans. They are talking about the sex of angels and spirituality. We are wasting time,” he reproached the representative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, who has made a fierce defense of the former CEO of the EMVS by wanting only to “save a company.”
For its part, the private prosecution exercised by the Association of People Affected by the Sale of the EMVS has maintained its request for penalties of up to eight years in prison for crimes of prevarication, embezzlement of public funds and fraud. He has also asked that they be convicted by article 289 of the Penal Code.
For the lawyer of those affected, Mariano Benítez de Lugo there was “a clear impairment” of interests to third parties and the social purpose of the EMVS was confirmed.
The socialist municipal group, represented as a popular accusation, has lowered the request for conviction and asks for twelve years in prison for Oslé for fraud, embezzlement and prevarication and one year in prison for Benavides for fraud. “It was the buyer and not the EMVS who set the price of the sale of houses”, the indictment of the PSOE states, which adds that “the price was objectively lower than the price that could be obtained even at the mere book value of the houses” .