The trial of the 'godfather' of Majorcan nightlife begins with six acquittals

The prosecution asked for as many as eight and a half years in prison for nightlife tycoon Bartomeu Cursach, but is now only seeking one and a half years

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Bartomeu Cursach, this Monday before the trial with his lawyer, Enrique Molina, on a terrace in Palma.

PalmaFrom baptising a club with his initials, BCM, and placing them, immense, in gold on the facade, to starring in one of the most notorious corruption cases in the history of the Balearic Islands. Bartomeu Cursach Mas, known as the king, the kingpin or even the godfather was the great mogul of Majorcan nightlife. And he still has power. This Monday, however, he was back in court. He is one of the 23 people –including politicians, civil servants, businessmen and policemen– who are indicted in a trial that is expected to last until April 2023, and bears Cursach's name. But the defendants' bench was significantly emptied out on the first day: Palma's Court has agreed to acquit six of those involved, after the accusations –including the Prosecutor's Officed– have withdrawn the charges they faced.

Cursach now faces a sentence of a year and a half in prison, charged with membership of a criminal group and inducement to administrative misfeasance, but things look much better than could be expected for the nightlife magnate. On day 1, the prosecution changed its indictment to drop the charges against six of the accused and reduced by more than half the number of years behind bars it was seeking for the rest. One of the main beneficiaries has been Cursach, who went from a sentence of eight and a half years in prison to one year and six months. For the time being, the former director of Tito's and BCM, Jaime Lladó; a worker of the Cursach group, Arturo Segade; the regional government's ex-director general of Tourism Pilar Carbonell; the Balearics' Tourism Department's former architect Bernadí Seguí; Palma City Council former official Julián Garau; and former policeman Antoni Bergas. But not only did the trial begin with reduced sentencing requests and acquittals: in addition, the regional government's lawyer has withdrawn because he does not see the evidence as solid enough to maintain the charge of misfeasance.

The empire built by the Majorcan godfather ended up involving members of politics and the police, but before that it enjoyed a golden age. Cursach began his career in the seventies with the Riu Palace hotel in S'Arenal. At the end of the eighties he created BCM, in Magaluf; in the nineties he bought the club Tito's, in Palma, and with the new millennium he opened the great German club in Mallorca, Megapark. But nightlife was not enough for him and he started opening restaurants, such as Asadito, and an exclusive gym, MegaSport Centre. His business network, at its peak, had nearly 1,700 employees and one and a half million customers a year. He was also the largest shareholder (43%) of Real Mallorca football club in the early 2000s, and became owner of Atlètic Balears in 2011. He even founded an airline, BCM Airlines, which chartered flights for tourists. But it only operated for one year, in 1997, before failing

Cursach became practically the most powerful man in Mallorca, not only because of his fortune. Despite the suspicions of corruption that always surrounded him, the Majorcan godfather was a friend of former Balearic president Jaume Matas, a protégé –according to the court's investigation– of former delegate of the Spanish government in the Balearic Islands and former Balearic Minister of Home Affairs José María Rodríguez, and partner of the then Bancaja executive Ramón Rosselló.

The Cursach case took his name in 2013 as a result of an investigation to clarify whether the local police of Palma had manipulated entry exams in 2012. But it ended up deriving in a plot in which civil guards and national police accused municipal police of extorting night businessmen and businesses of Palma, as well as of being paid for favours with drugs and prostitutes at scenarios such as the emblematic Palma nightclub Tito's. Even so, the multifaceted businessman continued with his businesses without problems for a few years.

Turning point

The Cursach business conglomerate began to falter in 2017, in the wake of the corruption scandal. That year he spent 13 months in prison. But he held out and managed to wriggle his way out, even though he also stood accused of homicide (never proven). And he demonstrated his power by stopping the case against him nine months after it was opened. His right-hand man, Tolo Sbert, who now also faces six and a half years in prison, presented a recusal against the judge who was investigating the case, Manuel Penalva, and questioned the impartiality of prosecutor Miguel Ángel Subirán. Both are still pending trial, since the case against them has been reopened just a week after the macro trial against Cursach.

Precisely this case against the judge and the prosecutor, still open, has led one of the lawyers of the private prosecution to request this Monday the nullity of the judicial process against the tycoon. The lawyer wants the Cursach case to return to the pre-trial phase and has alleged alleged "traps or irregularities" during the investigation which, she insinuated, would have to do with "the main accused", that is, Cursach. This was one of the most predictable moves this morning, after the last resolution of the High Court of Justice of the Balearic Islands, on June 6, which added more fuel to the fire. That ruling of over 300 pages finally decided to send Penalva and Subirán to trial for several crimes which had already been thrown out, such as coercion and threatening defendants, and inducing false testimonies of protected witnesses during the investigation of the Cursach case.