15 defendants admit a fraud in the licenses for tourist flats in Ciutat Vella

  • An agreement between the prosecution and the defense makes it possible to considerably reduce the request for punishment for the defendants in a case

The passage of time and the undue delays in the investigation of the legal case have decaffeinated the trial that began this Thursday in Barcelona against a plot that included municipal officials who fraudulently and arbitrarily processed licenses for tourist flats in the Ciutat district sail; in some cases in exchange for money. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, after an agreement with the defenses, considerably lowered the sentences it requested for 15 defendants, who admitted the charges, and withdrew the accusation against three others, with which the hearing will only be held for five people. What in its day was a harsh qualification letter (up to 18 years in prison was claimed) was transformed. The sentences required for the defendants who admitted the facts range from a few months in prison to a maximum of four years and two months.

The main defendants are Heliodoro Lozano, who for eight years was head of Ciutat Vella technical services and then it was transferred to Nou Barris, the public employee and former legal adviser Elena Ariza (has not accepted the pact with the prosecution) and the engineer Joaquim Quilez. Municipal officials and owners of tourist flats also appear on the list. This alleged case of bribery was discovered as a result of other process for corruption of public employees in relation to hostess clubs (the ‘Saratoga case’) in which Quílez was accused. In the entries and records made at his home and in his professional office, a handwritten sheet was found with a list of addresses, names and premises and, next to it, figures in euros that could correspond to debts and payments that clients had to make to the engineer for works or licenses.

more than 15 years ago

The events date back 15 years, when in June 2005, in order to address the problem that existed in Ciutat Vella due to the proliferation of tourist flats, Barcelona City Council approved a special plan to establish regulations for this district. The council prohibited the opening of new homes of this type in the area, allowing, however, that in which this activity was already being carried out, they could continue to do so as long as they previously obtained a municipal urban planning license for change of use. Given the avalanche of requests of these characteristics, In 2008, the consistory launched some action measures and a team was created to process these permits.

It was as a result of this situation that, according to the accusation, Quilez contacted Lozano, who was the director of the technical services of old city, and proposed that in exchange for receiving an economic consideration “it proceed to carry out the necessary actions to expedite the processing” of its files and “obviate” the defects that could occur in the applications, “even if they were of such an entity that in accordance with the applicable regulations should lead to its denial”.

The accusation emphasizes that Lozano, “acting with the intention of obtaining a illicit patrimonial benefit”, transferred the agreement to Ariza, given her status as head of legal advice and of the special operation created to process the licenses. She would be in charge, “taking advantage of her privileged position” of her, to get the municipal technicians to overlook the irregularities that could exist in the applications and to speed up the processing of the files, according to the prosecution. And so I communicate it to the officials, some of them temporary, maintains the accusation. These technicians agreed for reasons that have not been proven. The prosecution requests the confiscation of 70,300 euros allegedly linked to the bribes received by the ringleaders of the plot.

“They managed to profit”

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We have been waiting for this trial for a long time because we want to know what happened,” said the councilor of Ciutat Vella, Jordi Rabassa, at a press conference accompanied by the councilor for Commerce, Markets, Consumption, Internal Regime and Finance, Montserrat Ballarín. , and the Councilor for Citizen Rights, Marc Serra Rabasa specified that the 15 defendants “have admitted the charges, showing that they managed to profit, that they obtained documentation and that they even threatened to kill the two people who uncovered and denounced this plot “. In this sense, he lamented the “very complicated situation that the former councilor and the former manager of Ciutat Vella have been suffering for all these years.”

The threats to the councilor Iztiar Martínez and the manager Mercè Massa

In June 2007 there was a change in the Ciutat Vella department, with the entry of Itziar Gonzalez and the manager Mercè Massa. The two, according to the prosecutor, adopted a series of measures to put an end to certain malpractice. All this caused “situations of tension” derived from the decisions to be adopted in relation to tourist flat license files. As a result, according to the accusation, Joaquim Quílez and his girlfriend made the decision to intimidate a municipal architect, the councilor and the manager, to whom they sent threatening letters.

“You only lack the pith like the bulls. You are looking for ruin in the district, you have done many people very badly (…) You must disappear from this world now,” read the letter that Itziar received at his home. They wrote to the manager: “Mercé, you don’t know what you’re getting into. There was a manager in this district years ago who almost cut his neck, in fact, he was injured.” By accepting the sentence agreed upon with the prosecution, the two defendants admit that they carried out these acts and accept a sentence of months in prison, as well as the payment of compensation to the victims.

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