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The so-called 'patriotic police' brigade that carried out Operation Catalonia not only illegally tapped the phones of politicians and businessmen, but also used Spain's Financial Intelligence Unit without legal authorization. This situation caused an internal war between commissioners from different units of the Spanish National Police. It reached the point where José Manuel Villarejo - retired Spanish police commissioner, responsible for Operation Catalonia in 2012, sentenced to 19 years in prison for part of the Tandem case with other cases yet to come - warned of the illegal use of SEPBLAC (Spain's money laundering prevention service) resources to "leak data to the media" and to "blackmail key figures in the political or economic sectors", according to new information to which has had access.

🔒 Villarejo claims in ministerial memos that he interfered in the Catalan and Galician elections

Clear evidence of these irregularities is the manipulated information that SEPBLAC gave to its colleagues from the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) of Liechtenstein about the investigations into the Pujol Ferrusola family. In the case of the then-Catalan president Artur Mas, it gave him false information directly, in September 2014. SEPBLAC, which is a collegiate body that depends on the Spanish economy ministry, has the power to investigate cases of capital money laundering (and can demand data from banks), but if it finds criminal evidence it must refer this to a judge. In the case of the Catalan politicians, this was never done.


Illegal actions

Villarejo made a record of his complaint in an informative memo on December 17th, 2015, addressed to the Interior ministry headed by Jorge Fernández Díaz (PP), under the title: Denunciation of allegedly illegal actions. Four days later, on December 21st, the commissioner filed a complaint with the General Directorate of the Police about these alleged irregularities by the heads of the UDEF's financial intelligence unit. The answer he received was that the case had been referred to the internal affairs unit of the police and that he was ordered to stop his investigations, as set down by the ministry in a letter to which has had access (attached below). The interior ministry did not clarify anything publicly.

This is the second warning of irregularities that Villarejo had sent to the interior ministry. The context of the allegations, however, is not just simple concern for the functioning of these bodies. With the PP operation against the Catalan independence movement and other rivals having been discovered, Villarejo would have made these allegations to protect himself against possible future judicial investigations. In any case, a serious lack of control in the operation of different police units is evident. In the first complaint, now known and dated March 20th, 2015, Villarejo warned that the Directorate General of Police had bought spy tools from an Israeli company "at a cost of millions"and these were used to carry out surveillance on politicians, journalists and rival parties. In fact, with these tools, the two interviews between minister Fernández Díaz and the then-director of Catalonia's anti-fraud office, Daniel de Alfonso, were recorded in October 2014, in a conversation in which they are heard conspiring and looking for cases that they can pursue against the politicians from the pro-independence parties, Convergència (CDC) and the Republican Left  (ERC).

The accusations

In the internal complaint that he submitted in December 2015 to the Spanish National Police's General Directorate (also embedded in this article), Villarejo directly accuses the commissioner of the UDEF's money laundering unit, SEPBLAC, as well as a chief inspector. However, there is no record of any judicial action being subsequently taken against these two professionals. In the memo, Villarejo gives the details of the alleged irregularities within SEPBLAC, and quotes the then director Juan Manuel Vega Serrano, assuring that he is a person "of absolute confidence of economy minister Luis de Guindos" and that he behaves "in an obscurantist manner" with his workers regarding their requests for information. It should be emphasized, however, that Vega Serrano was at the head of SEPBLAC until October 2020; that is to say that when the PSOE replaced the PP at the head of the Spanish government, it kept Vega Serrano in office for two more years.



Spurious ends

In the memo, Villarejo maintains that "in recent months" there had been a pattern of intelligence reports "being drawn up on people, companies and even institutions without apparent reason or interest, whether police or judicial" and adds that these reports "end up in the hands of third parties and have been used for spurious ends without being part of the anti-money laundering database." And he gives the example of a report made by the company Replica Comunicación, which is thought to have been used for money laundering from donations to political parties. Another of the investigated companies is Errokeria, among other names mentioned.

"They appear to be pressuring several known figures from the business and political spheres. And, without a legal reason to justify it, it appears that operations are being carried out at banks, registries, and notaries, thus generating a reputational deterioration, uncontrolled, and without judicial control", states Villarejo - of course, it must be added that Villarejo is himself one of those most responsible for the Spanish state's dirty war during the PP executive. The retired commissioner asserts that the two policemen he names were among the authors of these reports or investigations into colleagues on leave or retired who "happen to run strategic consulting firms in the business world". He also warns that other officers might be erasing their data so as to avoid leaving a trace. This reserved note is one more of those that make up the secret papers of Operation Catalonia.


In fact, Villarejo is under investigation by the National Audience for having carried out investigations with his own company Cenyt for entrepreneurs and for the PP. The first conviction in the so-called "Iron" case was for disclosure of company secrets, while in the "Land" case, he was convicted for forgery, while being acquitted of the crimes of bribery and extortion in the degree of conspiracy.

However, none of the irregularities of officials and policemen related to SEBPLAC, those described above and reported by Villarejo, have reached the courts.