One of the complainants of the alleged political and urban irregularities in Estepona (Málaga, 71,925 inhabitants) between 2003 and 2007, David Valadez, has assured this Wednesday that the retired commissioner José Manuel Villarejo has nothing to do with the investigation. His participation “is absolutely non-existent”, according to what he said this morning during the trial on the so-called Astapa case. The shadow of Villarejo haunts a trial whose main defendant is the then mayor of the town in Malaga, Antonio Barrientos, who appeared in court this Tuesday to ensure that during his time “there was no irregularity.” He also stressed that where there were “anomalies” is in the police investigation; The exedil focuses on the retired commissioner as the alleged organizer of the entire plot, which ended with him in jail and Valadez, later, in the mayor’s office.
Barrientos’ statement served to inaugurate this Tuesday the test phase and declarations of the trial of the Astapa case, the last great case against urban corruption on the Costa del Sol. It investigates an alleged plot that was dedicated to underestimating the many urban agreements that were promoted between 2003 and 2007 in Estepona to finance both political parties and the town hall itself, in addition to the enrichment of several members of the organization. There are fifty defendants, who are tried for the crimes of falsehood, fraud, embezzlement, bribery, prevarication and influence peddling. Among them, the former mayor Barrientos is one of the most prominent; the Prosecutor’s Office requests for him a sentence of ten years and nine months in prison. His defense, like those of the rest of those investigated, have focused on Villarejo’s role as the alleged mastermind of the plot.
The investigation is of such a caliber —there are 128 main volumes with 351,114 pages and 646 documentary pieces— that the trial has been divided into ten thematic blocks and the prosecutor himself, Valentín Bueno, initially opened the possibility of developing one more focused on the origin of the investigation to clarify if Villarejo had anything to do with it. The Provincial Court of Malaga refused to do so in an order issued on February 23, although it also annulled the wiretapping that gave rise to the case because the order was not sufficiently justified and was not “necessary” or “ideal”.
This decision deflates a case that is being judged 15 years after it began and that judicial sources emphasize that it will end up being diluted due to its complexity and delay. “I am convinced that it will end well”, Barrientos said this Tuesday before entering room 4 of the City of Justice in Malaga where the first of the blocks focused on actions in terms of urban discipline began. At the door of the courts, he assured that he really wanted to speak, although in his statement he did not respond to any of the parties and only manifested himself through an appearance in which he defended his innocence.
“There was no irregularity, and less from a criminal point of view, in issues of urban discipline,” said the former councilor, who in his speech assured that the urban planning area, then directed by the mayor María del Carmen Miralles, was then ” overflowed”. However, he stated, “no technician has ever received suggestions, proposals, and even less pressure from the councilor or from anyone else.” In return, he focused on the police investigation “where there was no discipline due to his actions with multiple irregularities and anomalies unbecoming of a rule of law” referring to the alleged role of Villarejo.
That role has been denied by one of the main witnesses, David Valadez, who, in addition to succeeding Barrientos in the mayor’s office, was the one who filed the complaint that led to the investigation. He did answer all the questions that have been asked in this Wednesday’s session. “The participation of today’s famous and well-known commissioner José Manuel Villarejo in the genesis or origin of the case is absolutely non-existent,” said Valadez -as reported by Europa Press- who has recognized that he only met him “much later” through his brother, parish priest in Estepona, and that he only had coffee with him. “It can hardly be sustained” that he and Villarejo maneuvered “to orchestrate a plot in 2006” for him to be elected mayor “because they would be assuming guessing skills.”
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“We were tired of denouncing what was happening at all levels of our party without the slightest attention being paid to us,” said Valadez, who filed the complaint in Madrid, before the UDEF, in the company of the then Socialist councilor. Cristina Rodriguez. She did it like this, she has recounted, to avoid possible leaks if she did it in Malaga. For Barrientos’ defense, however, this is one of the keys that, he believes, supposedly involves Villarejo in the plot. “He achieved what he wanted: to have a clear influence on the urban planning of Estepona and carry out a manipulation of the investigation through the influence of UDEF officials,” stressed María Gutiérrez, Barrientos’ lawyer, in January. There is still no date for the end of the process, although its magnitude and complexity suggest that it will last until summer.
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