Mercasa case: new invoices point to three positions of trust of ZP and Rajoy

Judge Santiago Pedraz You already have key documentation on the table about the operations carried out by Mercasa in Panama. The result of the rogatory commission issued to the authorities of the Central American country has already reached the National High Court, which is investigating whether the contracts that were entered into between October 2010 and May 2017, for the total amount of 8.5 million euros (more than 9.7 million dollars), they had behind a system of bribes to win public contracts. A documentary that would narrow the siege on three former positions of the Spanish public company appointed by the Governments of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero Y Mariano Rajoy.

Among the papers that have been made available to the head of the Central Court of Instruction number 5 emails sent between Mercasa and the law firm headed by the former Panamanian minister would be found Meliton Arrocha to mediate in favor of the Spanish consortium in public awards. As sources close to the investigation have indicated to La Información, it would be correspondence linked to the former general secretaries of Mercasa Maria Jesus Prieto Y Alvaro Curieland the former financial economic director of the company Ruben de Castrowhich would demonstrate the degree of knowledge they had of the operations carried out on which it is suspected that irregular commissions were paid.

The circumstance arises that these three investigated will be tried, along with 15 other people, for the main part of the so-called ‘Mercasa case’related to the alleged payment of more than 20 million euros in commissions to authorities and public officials of Angola, during the years 2006 to 2016, for the construction of a wholesale food market in Luanda. The Anticorruption Prosecutor requests for them up to 8 years in prison for the crimes of corruption in business transactions international, documentary falsehood continued, embezzlement of public funds continued, money laundering Y criminal organization; while the State Attorney limits her accusation to 5 years in prison for the crime of embezzlement of public funds.

In relation to the line of investigation on business in Panama, a judicial commission, led by Judge Pedraz and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Conrad Saiztraveled to the aforementioned country in the last week of January to question various witnesses in order to clarify whether five public contracts that were signed for an amount of 8.5 million euros -although one million less was billed- irregular commissions were paid in exchange for public awards. One of the people questioned was the former Panamanian Vice Minister of Foreign Trade and former permanent representative of the Republic of Panama to the UN, Meliton Arrochawho read an extensive document and promised to deliver numerous documents to demonstrate that all the services provided by his office for the representation of Mercasa were legal.

Precisely, the text reproduced by the former minister is found in the rogatory commission, which has also included the bills rotated by said services and the emails that point to the former positions of the public consortium, according to the sources consulted. The analysis of said documentation depends on the future of this line of research. In fact, Judge Pedraz agreed to extend this part of the ‘Mercasa case’ for another six months while waiting for the Panamanian documentation to arrive. In this sense, the sources familiar with the investigations point out that once all the information that has just arrived is studied, the investigating magistrate will have to decide whether to do more errandsif you consider that the piece is ready to stand trial or if this part of the investigation should be shelved.

The ‘modus operandi’

Another option would be, according to the same sources, for the judge to wait for the rogatory commissions issued to other countries to arrive to clarify whether irregularities were also committed in Dominican Republic either Argentina and determine whether everything should be judged together or separately. According to the investigations carried out since the ‘Mercasa case’ began in 2018, when the judge Jose de la Mata was in charge of the Central Investigating Court number 5 -now in Eurojust-, the public consortium would have followed the same ‘modus operandi’ in all the countries that are being investigated: the channeling payments or bribes to foreign authorities and officials through consultancy agreements with different individuals, to whom they paid a percentage of the sum of the public contract obtained. These bribes would have been paid to bank accounts owned by shell companies.

In the case of Panama, the investigators believe that the agent or commission agent would have been Melitón Arrocha, through his law firm, which acted as Merca’s representative. It was in this context that the former deputy minister -who is not under investigation- read his extensive document and promised to deliver all the documents available to him to the National High Court, in order to remove any evidence of the crime of corruption in international business transactions. But the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office Nor does it rule out the participation of other commission agents in these events, such as the consultant Jose Manuel Canowho was hired by the public company for one of the contests in the Caribbean country, for which he would have received a commission of 6% of the total amount of the tender, plus the sum of 75,000 euros per year. The suspicions arose after finding no signs proving that these services were actually provided.

For the alleged irregularities committed by Mercasa, he was investigated Paul Gonzalezwho was former director of Strategy and Operations of the public consortium and brother of the former president of the Community of Madrid Ignacio González, accused in the cases ‘Lezo‘ Y ‘punic‘, although Judge De la Mata decided to leave him off the list of those investigated in relation to the projects in angola. The same does not happen with Panama, since the magistrate who has inherited this case, Santiago Pedraz, does anticipated his interrogation. Likewise, it should be noted that among the defendants is Jose Herrero de Egana, nephew of Ignacio López del Hierro, husband of the former general secretary of the PP María Dolores de Cospedal. This businessman will also sit on the bench for the operations related to the African country.