The Prosecutor of the Principality of Asturias has requested the dismissal of part of the so-called “Operation Pokémon”, the alleged plot linked to the obtaining of public contracts through the figure of a procurer and which affected different councils of Asturias, although the origin of the investigation was in Galicia. Specifically, the dismissal affects contracts linked to the councils of Tapia de Casariego, Siero and Cangas de Narcea, and also to investigated facts related to the Fusba de Hunosa foundation, the PP of San Martín del Rey Aurelio and the regional PP, for a contract within the framework of the electoral campaign of the regional elections of 2011.
The parts of “Operation Pokémon” that the Prosecutor’s Office now considers are not sufficiently accredited and it is impossible to investigate are all related to Joaquín Fernández, who was Deputy Secretary of Communication for the Asturian PP and who had a consulting company through which billed certain activities. Precisely the impossibility of gathering more evidence due to the end of an investigation in which the Prosecutor’s Office considers that the possible accusations were not established with sufficient certainty, motivates the decision to dismiss some of the ramifications of the case.
“Operation Pokemon” began with investigations related to crane contracts in Lugo, but later the wiretaps and the obtaining of documentation ended with the investigation of dozens of operations related to public contracts of different natures and the activities of the people who were appearing. as the investigation expanded.
It is in this process when the tapping falls on the Asturian Joaquín Fernández, linked to the regional PP and several companies and whose actions came under suspicion. But now the Prosecutor’s Office considers that some of them should be dismissed. Within the framework of the judicial investigation of the operation, carried out by Customs Surveillance agents at the discretion of Judge Pilar De Lara, then a magistrate in Lugo, Joaquín Fernández was identified as a “successor” of the plot, a role that did not The Prosecutor’s Office now considers it sufficiently accredited and on which it is impossible to delve deeper as the investigation period has concluded. Specifically, these are the following contracts.
Cleaning contract with the Town Hall of Tapia de Casariego.
He was referring to some cleaning contracts that the tapiego consistory had to award, related to the maintenance of schools. The investigation began after wiretapping in which Joaquín Fernández was allegedly speaking with another interlocutor about the possibility of obtaining the award of a cleaning contract using his consultant. But finally, the Prosecutor’s Office points out that “it does not appear that this consultancy has been carried out, nor that this company has intervened in a tender, since the contract for cleaning and maintenance of schools was in force since 1997 and continued to be so in 2015”. The events occurred previously and Joaquín Fernández was arrested in February 2013. For the Prosecutor’s Office, there was no real administrative event that would allow us to suspect that what was raised in that intervened conversation was carried out.
Linked to a Hunosa foundation.
Joaquín Fernández’s consultant had a six-month contract for commercial management services. It was a contract of 1,650 euros per month plus mileage expenses. Finally, the Prosecutor’s Office concludes that the contracted services were provided. The Customs Surveillance Services indicated that some mileage expenses could have been falsified because “some of the days” the person under investigation “was in a place very far from where he claimed to be.” In any case, the Prosecutor’s Office points out, the improper collection, even without being accredited, would not exceed 400 euros, so in any case it would be a minor offense that would already have prescribed.
Siero cleaning contract.
Also on this occasion, the investigations pointed to a possible attempt to intervene on a garbage collection contract in Siero, as well as to favor municipal contracts towards the aforementioned Hunosa foundation. The judicial investigation of this piece indicated that the alleged “achiever” of the plot would have held conversations with municipal officials of Siero to obtain technical reports favorable to a certain company to influence the extension of the concession of the cleaning contract. But a report from the municipal intervention advised against that decision. According to the telephone conversations, those investigated showed “interest in getting the auditor to make a favorable report and, in this way, obtain the approval of the extension.” In fact, months later, the same official issued a report in which she did acknowledge that the extension of the service was part of the contractual provisions. The extension occurred, but the Prosecutor’s Office considers that it has not been proven that there was pressure on the official and that, although there was interest in that decision, there are no circumstances that could imply a criminal offense. Also in Siero, it was investigated if there could be attempts to promote contracts to the Hunosa foundation with which Joaquín Fernández had a commercial link. The Prosecutor’s Office considers that he is not accredited either.
Relationship with a security company.
According to the proceedings of “Operation Pokémon”, Joaquín Fernández held conversations with the delegate in Asturias of a security company in which both plan to establish a joint venture. This security company had obtained contracts in Cangas del Narcea and from the Hunosa foundation on which, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, there is no indication of irregularity. “There is no other indication in the case that corroborates that there was indeed a manipulation of the contracting in favor of that company,” says the letter of the Prosecutor’s Office.
Relationship with the PP of San Martín del Rey Aurelio.
Joaquín Fernández served in his day as president of the Popular Party of San Martín del Rey Aurelio. In the investigation, the focus was placed on the hiring of cleaning personnel for the headquarters, which was carried out through the company that he himself had. The rental of the headquarters was also done through this firm. The Prosecutor’s Office points out that it does not constitute a crime in the hiring of personnel (in any case there could be some type of administrative infraction that would have to be justified and that would already be prescribed) and the Prosecutor’s Office does not perceive any crime in the lease either.
Garbage collection contracts for Cangas del Narcea.
The Prosecutor’s Office refers to this matter that previous proceedings have already been initiated in the court of Cangas del Narcea on this matter, being prescribed.
The website of the regional candidate of the PP in 2011.
This was one of the issues that most affected the Popular Party during the investigation proceedings. The question referred to the invoicing for the launch of a web page of the PP candidate in 2011, Isabel Pérez Espinosa, who would receive Joaquín Fernández. The Prosecutor’s Office maintains that there are only telephone conversations, in which he indicated that the cost of the website should not exceed 3,000 euros but that 25,000 had been paid and claimed to know who had appropriated the difference. The Prosecutor’s Office maintains that there was no commercial relationship between the PP and the company of the person investigated, therefore the content of the conversations is not confirmed.
Another of the suspicions about Joaquín Fernández was based on the alleged participation in a corporate plot to channel money obtained from his activities, in order to hide the origin. In this regard, the Prosecutor’s Office points out that “beyond suspicions” a crime of money laundering cannot be considered accredited since there is insufficient evidence and since it cannot be determined if that money came from irregular actions or from a legitimate activity such as commercial.
With this request for dismissal, part of “Operation Pokémon” will probably end up annulled. After years of judicial investigation, the Lugo court whose position Pilar De Lara held had requested an extension in October 2017 to continue the investigation for two years. This extension was rejected and the case was divided into pieces and sent to different courts in the different territorial areas investigated. However, there is still part of the case pending final qualification by the Prosecutor’s Office.
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