November 26, 2008


Jesús looked even more dejected than usual today. After class, he told us he’d just had it confirmed by his lawyer that there is no possibility whatsoever of recouping any of the money he’d paid to a property developer for the apartment he bought off-plan a year ago in Estepona.

With no property to show for all the early-stage payments, he didn’t find any consolation either, he added, in the latest news that at least twenty arrests have already been made in Estepona in a multi-million euro investigation centring on real estate corruption.

Termed Operation Astapa, the investigation, Jesús explained, is similar to Marbella’s Operation Malaya which I’ll describe in a later post. Apparently, about two dozen police arrived to shut down the town hall, while in depth searches went ahead and arrests made.

Mayor Antonio Barrientos, up to ten councillors and seventeen businessmen face a number of charges ranging from bribery and influence-trafficking to prevarication and money-laundering. In fact, one of the alleged crimes of greatest interest to Jesús was the reclassifying of land to be sold off to developers at below market prices. ‘My apartment block was due to be built on reclassified land,’ he moaned. The group are also said to have taken bribes in return for issuing licences.

Mayor Barrientos from the socialist PSOE party was arrested at his home in the Bahía Azul area of Estepona, after which a full scale search of his palatial home was carried out by members of the specialist UDYCO anti-organised crime unit.

The mayor took charge of the town in 2003 after making a pact with the now-defunct GIL party, a party set up by the notorious former Marbella mayor, Jesús Gil, who perhaps more than anyone allowed Marbella to become a byword for vulgarity and, yes - corruption.

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