Thursday, August 5

The National Court forces García Castellón to reopen the Púnica investigation that affects El Corte Inglés

The Criminal Chamber of the National Court has given the reason to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office in its request to reopen the investigation of a fix with public land in Valdemoro, investigated in the framework of the Púnica case, which the investigating judge, Manuel García Castellón, had decided to archive. The investigations include, among others, the main defendant, Francisco Granados, two businessmen from his alleged criminal environment and El Corte Inglés, a company that in this case also would have benefited from corruption in the Madrid municipality.

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The judges of the Fourth Section consider García Castellón’s decision to archive the case against Faustino José Atencia “hasty”, at the time of the events legal advisor to El Corte Inglés. The magistrates recall, in a car to which has had access, that an expert report with the valuation of the land with which the investigated profited still remains to be seen. In addition, the Chamber points out, the investigation must clarify some questions on which the judge “remains silent” in the order on file.

With Francisco Granados as mayor of Valdemoro, the town council proceeded to exchange some land with El Corte Inglés. On the one hand, an area known as La Peluquera would pass to the company then chaired by Isidoro Álvarez and, in return, other lands, in Majuelo Norte, would be transferred in part to the Consistory and in part to a company called Obras y Vías, owned by the businessman investigated in Púnica Ramiro Cid Sicluna. After the swap, the City Council reclassified the land delivered to the department stores, going from rustic to industrial land, while the area that the company had handed over to the City Council and the businessman near Granados would become developable. The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office highlights the damage to Valdemoro’s public coffers that the operation entailed. A spokesman for El Corte Inglés has declined to make an assessment as the matter is in court.

At the center of the plot would be the legal advisor of El Corte Inglés Faustino José Soriano Atencia, who “would have collaborated in the schemes designed” by the rest of those investigated so that the Punic plot would take over the land of the department store company that then they would be requalified to build houses. Soriano Atencia chaired the Compensation Board of the area and later acquired a house built there by businessman Javier Cid Sicluna, brother of the owner of Obras y Vías, “for a value below market,” according to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. The file of the case of García Castellón also affected Javier Cid Sicluna, who presided over the aforementioned Board of Compensation.

The magistrate, according to the judges of the second instance, files the proceedings without making “any assessment” of the insufficiency of evidence that he himself attributes to the investigation of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. “Nothing is said about the participation of both investigated in the Compensation Board of one of the sectors where the urban planning was more evident,” adds the order of the Fourth Section. “A principle of prudence advises waiting to adopt a decision like the one at hand, in an extremely complex case like this one, at least at the end of the investigation phase, especially when it was not adopted initially,” added the magistrates.

The resolution of the Criminal Chamber correcting García Castellón is the last episode in which the magistrates intervene due to the serious disagreements between the investigating judge and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Criminal Chamber has already corrected García-Castellón in this same piece 4 of the Púnica case by attempting to archive the investigation of the rigging prior to the approval in 2004 of the General Urban Planning Plan (PGOU) of Valdemoro for considering the prescribed facts. The Prosecutor’s Office warned that the statute of limitations did not begin to run at the time the tampering took place, but rather when the investigation began.

García Castellón, professor at an El Corte Inglés foundation

After that, the popular accusations exercised in Punica by the PSOE and Adade asked Manuel García Castellón to abstain from the piece that affects El Corte Inglés due to his status as a teacher at the Ramón Areces foundation, created by the department stores. García Castellón rejected the petition because “there is no conflict of interest whatsoever” and the General Council of the Judiciary authorized him to teach those classes.

The clash between the judge and the prosecutors in the case reaches the point that the latter also wanted the Fourth Section to decide on an alleged violation of the right to effective judicial protection committed by the judge. Anti-corruption accuses García Castellón of being hastily filing the case against those investigated in Punica, before the prosecutors can present their conclusions in the indictment. “Our right to obtain effective judicial protection is continually violated,” prosecutors Carmen García Cerdá, Teresa Gálvez and Alejandro Cabaleiro wrote in their appeal. The Criminal Chamber, however, decides in the same order that the decisions of the judge appealed by the prosecutors do not violate the aforementioned right, no matter how much they may be corrected in that second instance.

One of the most striking discrepancies in this regard was the filing of the case against the former president of Indra Javier Monzón in the Púnica piece investigating the irregular financing of the Madrid PP. In that case, the Criminal Chamber upheld García Castellón’s decision to archive the case against the then executive president of Prisa. For his part, the magistrate has been denouncing in his files an “unnecessary delay” of the investigations in a case whose main piece was opened seven years ago.

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