Municipal politics in Badalona has been full of unexpected script twists for years. But when it seemed that Xavier García Albiol had recovered the mayor’s staff to hold it until the end of this term, everything has faltered again. His appearance in the ‘Pandora Papers’ has led the opposition first to ask for his resignation, and immediately afterwards to initiate conversations for a possible motion of censure that removes him from the position.
The failure of the pact of the left allows the return of Albiol to the mayor of Badalona
The PSC and Guanyem, the two main opposition parties, with 6 and 4 councilors respectively, acknowledge the contacts, although the Socialists are somewhat more cautious. The president of the party in Badalona, Rubén Guijarro, who would be the one who would replace Albiol if the negotiations come to fruition, has limited himself in public to asking him for explanations and demanding that he be the one to step in and resign. Others such as Guanyem and ERC have been clearer when it comes to defending an alternative that puts an end to this second section of Albiol at the head of the mayor of the fourth city of Catalonia.
The formations have opened conversations for the time being without a fixed schedule or a concrete proposal, although it is assumed that the mayor’s office would fall to the PSC. “The mayor’s office will not be a problem,” sources from both the Socialists and Guanyem pointed out to the ACN agency. This aspect was crucial because it was what detonated a possible agreement by all the left to replace mayor Àlex Pastor, also from the PSC, who resigned in April 2020 after being detained by the Mossos d’Esquadra for skipping confinement. It was thanks to this lack of agreement that the PP was able to return to the Badalonese government.
“We must correct errors, reach agreements with generosity and make possible a democratic government with the majority of the plenary session,” Guanyem sources insist. Meanwhile, in the PSC they ask not to be in such a hurry, even more so when this same Thursday another chapter of the case has been known, and that is that Albiol shared powers to manage society in Belize together with his number 2, Ramon Riera, who was lieutenant of mayor during his previous stage at the head of the consistory and is now mayor of Health.
The number 2 of the PP, also in ‘Pandora’
The news, released by La Sexta and El País, places Riera as attorney-in-fact, together with Albiol, of a company based in a tax haven. The company is called Luverne International and was created in 2005 through an office in Andorra. The company was active for 10 years, until 2015. At that time, Albiol had lost the mayor of Badalona and had already presented his candidacy to be president of the Generalitat. When it was created, both Albiol and Riera were councilors in the town council of the town.
The professional relationship between the two politicians dates back more than 30 years: between 1991 and 1993, Riera held the position of general secretary of the local PP and Albiol, the presidency. In addition, he has been the first deputy mayor between 2011 and 2015 or has coordinated the regional congress with which Albiol was president of the formation.
Beyond the PP, this relationship was present in Luverne International, a company that both could manage with full powers or that allowed them to buy property or open accounts in the bank. LaSexta and El País have spoken with politicians: in the case of Albiol, he has stated that he was taken over by Luverne, but that he never used power to do business in Central America; In addition, he has specified that he has had nothing to do with his activity in politics or in the PP. For her part, Riera has said that this project was probably “a mistake” and added that when they started it they did not think they were going to go that far in politics.
El País and LaSexta reveal that Luverne bought shares from another company: it is Basenia SL. It was in April 2005, when the directors of the company issued to the lawyer Arantxa Causabón a power of attorney to buy 589 shares of Basenia, a company dedicated to repair and maintenance of boats. In December 2008, another power of attorney was issued to Causabón, but, in this case, to sell the same number of shares.
Causabón has declined to speak to El País and LaSexta about this and Albiol and Riera have been unmarked, claiming that the company has been “inactive” for years and that they have nothing to do with that process.
Four mayors in six years
If the vote of no confidence is successful, it would be the fourth change of mayor in the city in six years. The first stage of Albiol, which achieved the mayoralty for the PP after years of socialism in the city, ended in 2015, when the entire opposition agreed to vote for Dolors Sabater, from Guanyem. In 2018, however, and after the most critical months of the process, the PSC took advantage of a question of confidence raised by the mayor to place Àlex Pastor at the head of the Executive with the votes of the PP and Citizens.
Thus, with only four councilors for 11 of the PP, Pastor began his career as mayor. After the 2019 elections, PSC, Guanyem, ERC, Junts and Badalona En Comú agreed in extremis on the investiture of the socialist to prevent the return of Albiol, but this formula failed when Pastor had to be relieved due to his arrest by the Mossos.