This article was originally published in April 2009 and is visible now so that readers can look at what was happening on the Costa Tropical back then.
There are further tribulations for the Mayor, with the Public Prosecutor breathing down his neck over his dubious divorce and alleged fraud to hide his patrimony from possible embargo.
This all goes back to the setting up of a semi private company in the late 80’s with sizeable public funds, giving the Town Hall the controlling shares. This company, Tropicalfruits, went bankrupt and subsequent investigation uncovered unconventional and deficient bookkeeping. It was found, for instance, that the company had been buying fruit at a greater price than it had been selling it.
During one of those brief periods during the last 20-odd years in which the Juan Carlos Benavides was not the Mayor, a socialist Town Hall council folded but the company into liquidation, thus discovering the whole ‘rotten apple.’ The socialists took the affair to court, but in the meantime lost the Town Hall to Benavides in the next municipal elections.
This led to the ludicrous arrangement where Juan Carlos was in charge of suing himself. Even so, the case finally drew to a disastrous conclusion for the Mayor and those persons that had presided over the Tropicalfruits board – they were ordered to pay 1,414,897 euros, from their pockets, to the municipal coffers.
The accused appealed against the verdict and when the appeal court sat in 2007 a surprising thing happened: The Town Council under Benavides was ordered by the court to produce company bookkeeping records, but the Mayor reported back that they had ‘disappeared’ in a robbery and could not be located. Lacking this evidence, the appeal court acquitted the ‘team’ through a lack of evidence. But the Public Prosecutor was not a happy bunny and decided to take the matter the Supreme Court, where it now rests.
Unfortunately for the Mayor, the Supreme Court ordered the ex-Tropicalfruits board to hand over the money, anyway, and they would keep it nice and safe until the final verdict was passed. *Gulp!*
And this is when the dubious divorces of the Mayor and his right-hand man, Rafael Contreras, came about, with both of these men divorcing their wives, awarded generous child settlements to adult offspring and declaring that they were virtually broke.
And there is where the whole thing passes from being a civil case to a criminal case. Owing money in a civil action is one thing, but allegedly hiding your patrimony from the judiciary department is, if proven, a criminal offence, which is why the Public Prosecutor is recommending two and a half years’ imprisonment for both the Mayor and Rafael Contreras, as well as their wives.
The question is, how long does the Mayor have before either cases comes up, one means financial ruin, if it goes against him, and the other means prison bars?
(News: Almunecar, Costa Tropical, Granada, Andalucia)