Against All Odds
If the Mayor of Almuñécar were a racehorse, under his present circumstances, nobody would bet on him, but he repeatedly crosses the judicial finishing line in first place. The opposition parties’ spokespersons are quick to state that they respect the judicial system, but you can bet that the Supreme Court won’t be getting Christmas Cards from them this year.
So, does he lead a charmed life, have bloody good lawyers or is he innocent as proven? The fact is, in print, we cannot really ask that question, because the Supreme Court acquitted him, therefore his innocence is not in question. However, whatever your personal opinion, he’s now on the offensive to turn the judicial tables against those that brought this case against him.
But let’s recap on how this lawsuit developed over 18 years, for it to reach its exhausted end with Juan Carlos Benavides Yaguas an innocent man.
In 1988, the Mayor created the Tropical Fruits SA fruit wholesalers, putting up 95% of the capital needed, from public funds. The remaining 5% was supplied by several farmers. However, in the space of only two years, the company had accrued some impressive losses.
Then came the 1991 elections and against all the polls, he lost the vote. So unexpected was his defeat and so convinced was he that the elections were in the bag, so to speak, he had already ordered scores of roast chickens and drinks to hold a public celebration in the town hall square… The results came out and the chickens went cold and uneaten.
The new socialist administration got hold of the municipal ‘books’ and discovered that the losses suffered by the company were staggering. Accordingly, the socialist Mayor, Sr Juan Rodríguez, decided to sue the ex-mayor and the rest of the Administrative Board of the company, in order to claw back some of the funds.
The law in Spain moves frustratingly slowly and so, four years later, the courts finally got round to asking for the municipal books. The trouble was that the claimants were no longer in power; Benavides was back in the driving seat, so that we had the ridiculous situation where the accused was asked to provide incriminating evidence against himself, because he now represented the claimants! Very suspiciously, before the books could be sent for inspection, a burglary was reported by the Town Hall and, with regret, it was announced that the books couldn’t be found.
Despite this, in 2003 the Mayor and the Board were found guilty of negligence in the Motril law courts. The guilty parties were sentenced to reimburse, from their own pockets, the staggering sum of 2.4m euros. They appealed and in 2007 the sentence was overturned by the provincial law courts in Granada. The auditing board of the company which discovered the losses during the liquidation process, appealed against the Granada finding, which is the one that has just been rejected by the Supreme Court, with the added blow that the auditing board has to pay the legal fees for their appeal.
Finally, though, the Mayor is certainly not out of the woods, because he allegedly filed for insolvency to avoid finding his share of the 2.4m euros if the appeal was accepted by the Supreme Court. The Public Prosecutor claims that it was a case of fraudulent bankruptcy, which is a criminal offence and one that the Mayor is facing at the moment, ironically.
Against All Odds