Eleven arrested in alleged corruption case at Cornellà City Council
Arrests stem from the case of the Consell Esportiu de L'Hospitalet de Llobregat
BarcelonaYesterday, officers from the Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit of the National Police (UDEF) searched the headquarters of the Department of Sports in Cornellà City Council of Cornellà and the headquarters of the Consell Esportiu del Baix Llobregat in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, investigating allegations of corruption, as advanced by SER and confirmed by ARA. According to police and court sources, the arrests stem from the Consell Esportiu de l'Hospitalet case, which affects mayor Núria Marín and former Generalitat Secretary of Sports Gerard Figueras. So far the police have arrested at least five people, including Salvador Valls, head of the council's Sports area and former manager of the Consell Esportiu del Baix Llobregat, as ARA has learned.
Of the detainees, only four will be brought to court, while the rest will wait to be summoned, as reported by Catalonia's High Court. Cornellà's Court of Instruction number 4 has ordered the arrests and also the searches of both the town council and the sports council –which is housed in another building– and also the headquarters of the Consell Esportiu del Baix Llobregat, located in Sant Feliu de Llobregat. The raids began early in the morning and lasted until the afternoon.
The investigation is open for the crimes of corruption, embezzlement of public money and fraud against the administration. A Hospitalet de Llobregat judge examining the original case informed Cornellà's court number 2 of evidence pointing to corrupt practice in the town. For the moment, reporting restrictions will apply to this part of the investigation.
In a statement, the City Council of Cornellà has expressed its willingness to "collaborate" with court authorities. It has explained that the UDEF has requested documents related to the contracting of sports refereeing service in the Consell Esportiu de l'Hospitalet, and has analysed the council's administrative files and computers. As detailed by Efe, the investigation focuses on a line of credit and a guarantee that the council, governed by the socialist Antoni Balmón, formalised in 2018 with the sports body: it was meant to be used to hire referees for a school sports championship. However, the judge is investigating whether one of the minutes of the board of directors of the Consell Esportiu to formalise the process was false and, in addition, whether the price was inflated. The City Council assures that the contracts "were processed and approved following the established legal procedure".
In parallel, the council has indicated that it handed over to the court authorities the contracting files that have been under investigation since October 2020 by court order, within the same case. Also Salvador Illa, leader of the PSC –the governing party in Cornellà– has spoken on the issue at a press conference. He has guaranteed "maximum collaboration with judicial authorities": "I believe that things have been done correctly, but if it has not been so we want to be the first to collaborate to find out what has happened, as well as to correct what needs to be corrected", he said at a press conference from Banyoles. Who has not yet spoken publicly is the mayor of Cornellà.
The case of the Consell Esportiu investigates whether the entity – financed by public subsidies and fees from l'Hospitalet families – were hidden and used for payments allegedly unrelated to the promotion of youth sports, such as unjustified lunches, drinks in bars, books for personal use and remuneration to officials and volunteers for which no taxes were paid. The investigators of this case had long since opened a separate investigation on the part that could affect Cornellà City Council.
In fact, Mayor Marín has already testified in the case of the Consell Esportiu and, according to judicial sources, she assured that she did not stand idly by before the possible accounting anomalies of the organisation: she affirmed that she immediately ordered an audit of the entity to be contracted. Even so, several statements of officials who worked in the Consell and had the function of supervising the accounts admitted to the judge that they did not do so.