Saturday, 20 March 2010

former Spanish police chief convicted of embezzling the equivalent of euro10 million ($14 million) became a free man Friday after serving 15 years

former Spanish police chief convicted of embezzling the equivalent of euro10 million ($14 million) became a free man Friday after serving 15 years in prison, and immediately faced — and dodged — the question on many Spaniards' minds: where'd he stash the money?Luis Roldan, 66, declined comment on that part of his saga as he left a halfway house where he has served the last five years of his sentence under a furlough program in the northeastern city of Zaragoza."I paid for what I did," said Roldan, who is arguably one of Spain's most unpopular people. He symbolized a period of corruption and greed within the political and financial elite that emerged during Spain's transition to democracy, after the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975."If you will, please do not prolong my lack of freedom," Roldan told a gaggle of reporters, then boarded a municipal bus to go to a small apartment his owns in Zaragoza.Roldan is alleged to have used front men to squirrel away the money he embezzled and invest it in real estate and other property. Spain's tax department has recovered less than 10 percent of the booty, according to the newspaper El Pais.
Roldan was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to 28 years in prison, but got time off for good behavior and for taking courses while in prison. He had spent a few years in prison awaiting trial.His case was part of a wave of corruption scandals that helped bring down then-Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez in elections held in 1996, ending 13 years of Socialist rule.Roldan was the first civilian to lead the Civil Guard, a paramilitary force that falls under the Interior Ministry. He had even been tapped as a possible interior minister, until he resigned in disgrace in 1993 shortly after a newspaper reported he had a hidden fortune. He fled Spain in 1994 only to be nabbed in Laos 10 months later.Luis Roldán, the ex head of the Guardia Civil, will sign his prison release papers today, having spent 15 years inside. It was his corrupt activity which is thought to have been partly responsible for the fall of the Felipe González Government in 1996.

He was originally sentenced to 31 years in prison for bribery, falsification of documents, mis-use of public funds, blackmail and tax crimes. But thanks to legal reforms and a five year reduction in the sentence for good behaviour, his time was reduced to 15 years, ten of which he served in a special wing of the women’s prison in Brieva, Ávila. For the last years of the punishment he was transferred to Zaragoza prison, but he was granted an open policy, which meant that he only had to sleep in prison, working by day as an insurance salesman, until his recent retirement.Now aged 66 life begins again for the man who went missing after diverting money, some 1.7 billion pesetas, away from the special reserve funds, money of which an estimated 10 million € remains whereabouts unknown. He was finally found and arrested in Thailand in 1995, and investigators managed to trace the money to a Swiss bank account, but then lost it after it was transferred to Singapore, a country which refused to collaborate with Spain on the matter.In prison Roldan has also married for a third time, to a Russian bride he met on the Internet. In a newspaper interview recently he claimed not to have made off with a single peseta, but he still owns a luxury flat next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and another property in San Bartolomé in the French Antilles, valued at 3.7 million €.
Speaking on the morning of his release Roldán said he did not understand why the police ‘never made the smallest effort to find or follow the money’. He said he had never had any contact with Paesa, whom he said he thought must be protected.

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