Council defends €1m marina bill

Council defends €1m marina bill
Suspected fraud and money laundering in Benalmadena Port Credit: Creative Commons

BENALMADENA’S Council has written to the Public Prosecutor’s Office submitting the results gained so far from an auditinto an alleged €1 million overspend on the town’s Puerto Marina.

The Mayor, Victor Navas, explained an internal audit into the alleged activity between 2011 and 2015 which isinvestigating the figure “is nearing its end” after two years and has announced a series of measures designed to tighten financial responsibility.

Five businessmen and two advisers caught up in the allegations, as well as Francisco Salido, the former Councillor for the Port, and the site’s former manager, Jose Manuel Lopez Merino, remain under investigation.

According to the extracts released so far from the audit and sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, “excess” payments were made in 14 works contracts awarded to a group of businessmen connected to the Union Centro Benalmadena (UCB), a body which helped to manage the port under the previous council government team.

After the previous team left power in 2015, the new Mayor, Victor Navas, ordered the audit, alongside the Councillor for the Port, Encarnacion Cortes.  The mayor criticised his predecessor for not beginning the investigation sooner and justified the length of time the audit has taken, claiming the time has been used to “collect evidence and reconstruct the case,” adding, “we only had indications and some documents and the deals done initially seemed to be legal.”

The alleged group of five businessmen responsible for the overspend are said to have created numerous companies immediately before or after the 2011 municipal elections, between them earning 66.19 percent of Puerto Marina’s turnover, a figure reaching almost €3 million.

According to the results published so far, auditors believe the “minimum amount” of overspend over the period is €1 million, owing to the “alleged excesses of previous managers.”

One of those under investigation, known only as MSIP, is said to have presided over at least four companies which claimed more than €1.4 million from the port, according to media reports.  A father and son also appear as administrators of two companies which received €624,368, while two other businessmen, known as MIA and MJGG, received €836,710.

The report’s initial findings have shown the group may be guilty of breaking contracts, creating false competition, awarding tenders without creating budgets, signing documents without technical supervision, breaking Tax Agency rules and money laundering.

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