The mayor of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona), the socialist Núria Marín, showed her “unconditional support” for the two councilors of her government investigated for alleged corruption in the Consell Esportiu de L’Hospitalet (CELH). Marín exchanged a “huge number of messages” with the councilors under suspicion through WhatsApp. The mayor shared information about the progress of the criminal process, worried about them and offered them her “protection” against the political and media pressure unleashed by the scandal. These are the conclusions of the National Police Corps after examining his mobile phone. Despite this report, which was delivered to the court and to which EL PAÍS has accessed, the Prosecutor’s Office has requested that the case against Marín be filed, which remains under investigation for not pursuing irregularities in time. According to the public ministry “there is not a single piece of information” that points to a criminal act by the mayor.
Jaume Graells, now an ERC candidate, was deputy mayor in February 2020 and responsible for reviewing the accounts of CELH, a private non-profit entity that promotes school sports in the city, but which in practice has been closely linked to the Consistory and the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC). “Núria, I need to talk to you. I have received information of anomalies. At least one hour because it has fabric ”, Graells wrote to him on WhatsApp. The next day, he was received in the office of the mayor, who, however, “did not collect the documentation” that she wanted to give him, according to the police. In his statement before the judge, Marín said that he acted diligently because he ordered a review of the entity’s documentation, commissioned an audit and interviewed those named, who denied the facts.
Graells insists. Time passes and nothing is done, he complains. Those responsible for the CELH save time. Three months after speaking with Marín, Graells denounces the facts to the Police: there is a gap in the accounts of half a million euros and numerous accounting irregularities. The most serious is the illegal payment of compensation of 47,000 euros to the former director of the body and Sports Councilor Cristóbal Plaza, which was approved by the second deputy mayor of L’Hospitalet, Cristian Alcázar, a person very close to the mayor at that time. For this compensation, the Prosecutor’s Office asks for four and a half years in prison for each one.
With the judicial process activated, Marín almost completely ignored Graells, with whom he barely exchanged messages. The police find this lack of “empathy” incomprehensible, especially when compared to the “attention, support and certain protection” that it provides to the two councilors investigated during the following months: the analysis of the mobile phone stops in December 2020, when Marín was summoned to testify as detained at the police station. The complicity between those investigated and the mayor of L’Hospitalet is such that even Plaza confirms that they had falsified the minutes of a CELH assembly that had not been held and that was presented to the Generalitat for the entity’s accountability. Marin responds with an approving cone.
Contacts with Illa and Iceta
Marín, who also presides over the Barcelona Provincial Council, “is kept informed at all times of what concerns the CELH” and “raises the information to the heads of the PSC”. Faced with particularly relevant events, the mayor communicated with the then Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, and with the former first secretary of the party, Miquel Iceta, today Minister of Culture. For example, the day before going to declare: “I’m in the office, can you call me or I’ll call you? I need to comment on a topic”, she tells them both. The police stress that all of them prefer to talk through a landline phone.
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Both Illa and Iceta avoid writing evaluations to Marín over the phone, but from her comments, the police understand that they were informed of the situation of those under investigation. “The couple made the complaint!” Marín writes to Illa, referring to Graells and the other complainant, the CELH employee Mercedes Hernández, with whom he had had a romantic relationship. “We talk at night,” replies the current leader of the PSC.
The mayor and the councilors investigated “are kept informed of all developments” in a series of communications that show that their relationship goes “beyond the strictly labor.” The police arrested Plaza and Alcázar in June 2020 for irregularities by the CELH. Marín is interested in Plaza: “How are you? Everything’s fine?” The mayor replies: “They don’t stop sounding messages of support. Today walking through the Gornal [un barrio de L’Hospitalet] a group of little gypsies from the petanque giving me encouragement almost moved me. The union of all gives us a lot of strength”. “Well, yes,” the mayor answers.
Plus WhatsApp shares with the second deputy mayor. Alcázar explains how the meeting with the lawyers went, summarizes Graells’ statement, thanks him for delaying his appearance in a Parliament committee. “We made some arrangements,” Marín tells him. In September, Alcázar must testify before the judge and says he feels “uncomfortable.” “You, don’t worry, it will go well”, writes the mayor, who later writes to her chief of staff: “It seems that things have gone well for them. We are happy. They are both happy.”
The Prosecutor’s Office asked the investigating court this May to file the case against Marín, defending that she acted correctly: “There is not a single piece of information that allows us to deduce, never suppose or presume, that the investigated acted in flagrant or obvious contradiction with the law. The public ministry added that the mayor acted “without any intention of hiding the facts that were made known to her and, consequently, without relinquishing her duties.”
Cristóbal Plaza resigned in December of that year. Alcázar did not leave his post until last April, once the Prosecutor’s Office requested four and a half years in prison for him in a case in which the En Comú Podem de L’Hospitalet group exercises the accusation. The second deputy mayor also resigned as the first secretary of the PSC. Graells, for his part, has been signed by Esquerra Republicana to be their candidate in the municipal elections of 2023.
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