December 2, 2008


Spain, no stranger to dubious dealings, has been shocked and shamed as Marbella’s former planning mastermind, the right-hand man of the city’s notorious late mayor Jesús Gil, is currently on trial for the country's most outrageous property corruption scandal. Eighty-six members of Marbella's power elite, including two former mayors, are accused of embezzlement on an unparalled scale.

The alleged supremo is Juan Antonio Roca (pictured), accused of taking bribes from builders and, in turn, bribing councillors to approve illegal property developments. Police seized almost €1m in cash at his lawyer’s home.

Once an unemployed builder, Roca allegedly gave the former mayor Marisol Yague €1.3m in bankhanders, passed to her in plain envelopes, financing a facelift and home improvements worth €950,000. The deputy mayor, Isabel Marcos, had €360,000 in cash at her home, while Mr Roca built up an art collection valued at €30m, including a Miro, all on display in his steaming Jacuzzi! And when prosecutors investigated 18 shell companies registered in tax havens worldwide to launder his dirty money, they didn’t uncover a single legitimate business deal.

Roca's rise from rags to riches began in 1991, when he became the henchman-cum-protégé of Jesus Gil, the flamboyant property developer, football club owner and mayor of Marbella who presided over the resort like a mafia boss.

Roca thereafter built up a €120m fortune, according to the 450-page indictment handed down by Judge Miguel Angel Torres, derived from the greed and excess of Spain's long property boom. Town halls throughout Spain found themselves embroiled in the tide of illegality, but the utter outrageousness of the Marbella scandal eclipsed them all.

Last year the government dismissed the entire council and introduced a management committee pending local elections this May. Meanwhile revelations about Roca's sheer baroque excesses continue to stun and shame...

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