The life of Jose Manuel Villarejo is worthy of a noir novel. For several years, the revelations about the former police officer have shaken the high political and economic spheres of Spain. The former commissioner will be tried from Wednesday for a first trial as expected as feared by the Spanish elites. Accused of corruption, illegal eavesdropping, or of belonging to a criminal organization, this 70-year-old man allegedly used his police duties “to obtain large sums of money as well as sumptuous gifts in exchange for special intelligence services “, according to the indictment of the judge in charge of the case. Almost four years after his arrest – including three in pre-trial detention – he mixed his name and that of several Spanish politicians with multiple scandals.
In order to better organize this important trial, the first three investigations concluded have been combined into a single oral hearing. Called “Iron”, “Land” and “Pintor” (“iron”, “land” and “painter”), they implicate business leaders suspected of having made spy on colleagues and competitors thanks to the services of Villarejo . On the dock will be 26 other individuals in addition to five legal persons, informs the national daily The world who is following the case closely. The prosecutor calls for 110 years in prison for a whole battery of crimes. The court will also have to rule for the first time on the size of the group led by the retired commissioner and understand how far the tentacles of the “criminal organization” extend.
The trial, which will be held in San Fernando de Henares, near Madrid, before the National Hearing (Spain’s main criminal court), is expected to last until the end of January. Several others should follow, on more media aspects of the case still being investigated. “This trial will be important to establish the credibility of the judiciary in Spain,” Manuel Bravo Pérez assures AFP, co-author of a book on “the Villarejo cases” (The invented Spain).
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A suspected “ripou”
When Jose Manuel Villarejo joined the police force in the 1970s, his journey could have been that of a classic civil servant. But he decides to take ten years’ leave to go into business, especially as a detective. In 1993, he rejoined the police and had a lot of sensitive information. Having records of influential people, the man thinks himself untouchable. “When he returned to the Ministry of the Interior in 1993, he was allowed to continue his private activities at the same time, sums up the daily. The country. He is therefore also a detective, but with a pistol and a badge, which allows him to have access to closed places, to sensitive information, to bank accounts or to wiretapping. ”
Jose Manuel Villarejo in particular investigated between 2013 and 2015 on the fortune of one of the sons of the Guinean president, Gabriel Obiang, on behalf of political rivals. On several occasions, the alleged “rogue” would have used his function to collect sensitive information. So far, the former cop has defended that he worked as an undercover agent and that he had the approval of various governments to plan his affairs through companies that he said the state itself had. then used for its own interests.
Some members of the elite have “reasons to be concerned”
Unknown to the general public, Jose Manuel Villarejo saw his name appear in the Spanish press in 2015. At the time, the local media unmasked his dark affairs, until his arrest in November 2017. Quickly, he was assigned the management of a criminal organization which, for years, has enriched itself by spying on individuals and companies. In recent years, several prominent elected officials have seen their names tarnished by the “Villarejo affair”, like the former interior minister of Mariano Rajoy, Jorge Fernandez Diaz. This conservative minister is notably suspected of having wanted to sully Catalan separatists by setting up false files against them or of having wanted to steal compromising documents from a former treasurer of his party. Baptized “Kitchen” (kitchen), in reference to the code name of the informant (“cook”), this last case, worthy of a thriller, is still the subject of an investigation.
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Former King Juan Carlos was himself implicated in one of Villarejo’s many recordings, released in 2018 and in which his ex-mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, spoke of embezzlement involving the former sovereign , now exiled in Abu Dhabi. Jose Manuel Villarejo “knows a lot of secrets”, often “embarrassing”, recalls Manuel Bravo Pérez, for whom some members of the elite have “reasons to be worried” as the trial approaches. “Maybe not so much for the criminal consequences as for their reputation,” he adds. During their searches, investigators seized more than 40 terabits of information archived by the former police officer, equivalent to several months of uninterrupted radio broadcasts. Weapons of blackmail that the retired police officer has carefully put aside year after year.