IT Head at Mogán Council was told to block Guardia Civil back door access to Town Hall computers by La Alcaldesa who may not give evidence before October
CanariasAhora‘s Ivan Suárez writes: During Tuesday’s fourth round of statements before the investigating judge, hearing the case of alleged irregularities in the Mogán local elections of 2015 and 2019, an official of the Mogán Town Council, responsible for Information Technology services, testified that La Alcaldesa, Onalia Bueno, and the councillor of Urban Planning, Mencey Navarro, both members of the so-called Ciudadanos por el Cambio (Ciuca) party and defendants in the case, ordered her to block access from Guardia Civil investigators, who were linked in to municipal servers following the searches carried out on September 17 seeking a series of files under suspicion for their possible connection with the alleged vote-buying plot and with crimes against the public administration (bribery, prevarication and embezzlement of public funds).
The public employee, MNB, has confirmed the statement she gave before judicial police. The events described occurred on October 1, a few days after the forced closing of the municipal town hall offices. The Civil Guard had identified digital documentation archived on the Town Council’s servers, which could not be exported on external hard drives. On the basis that they could not physically appropriate the servers, due to the damage that it would cause in the daily activity of the administration, the agents of the Guardia Civil’s Technological Research Team, in collaboration with the head of the IT service, opted, as a technical solution, to dump a backup copy of that day and allow access to the team of judicial police for analysis.
The witness states that on October 1, she met with Onalia Bueno and Mencey Navarro at the Town Hall after a request from the mayor the day before. According to the official’s account, it was at that meeting that she was ordered to disable the investigators’ access to that server on the grounds that there was more documentation in it than the court order had authorised the investigators to look at. They even urged the IT officer to inform the Guardia Civil that the order had been given by them. Around eleven o’clock that morning, and in compliance with the instructions given by the political leaders, MNB sent two messages via WhatsApp to Bueno and Navarro: “Account disabled. As you have ordered me to do.” A screenshot was attached to this communication.
The worker tried to contact a Civil Guard sergeant to communicate the order she had received. After several calls, she was warned that she should not disable access to public documentation and that with this action she could incur a charge of obstruction of justice and/or a crime against the public administration. At that time, the head of IT again wrote a message to the mayor. “Onalia, we have to talk. The Guardia Civil has given me the order to enable the user [account]. If I do not do so, I will incur a charge of judicial disobedience and they could charge me with obstruction of justice,” she said in that second communication, which received no response. from La Alcaldesa.
MNB let Mencey Navarro know too, with whom she had two brief telephone conversations. In the first of them, according to the official’s testimony, the councillor, in charge of Town Planning, told her that both the mayor and he had given her an order and that, as a municipal worker, she had to comply with it, but that he would still consult with their lawyers. About 25 minutes later, he gave the counter-order and the IT chief re-enabled the [user] account reporting it to the sergeant.
These facts, confirmed on Tuesday by the witness, lead the judicial police to believe that there are sufficient indications of the commission of crimes for non-compliance with a judicial resolution and infidelity in the custody of documents by the mayor and her right hand. For their part, the defence lawyers of some of those under investigation have moved to nullify the proceedings after they understood that the Guardia Civil had accessed more files than the judge had authorised. The investigating judge, instructing proceedings, rejected the incident, but his decision is being appealed at the Provincial Court of Las Palmas. La Alcaldesa‘s defence are attempting to progress the thesis that this whole case is nothing more than a conspiracy led by the elected town councillor for Nueva Canarias (NC), Isabel Santiago, whom they accuse of having devised the events under investigation.
Votes at 50 euros
Another witness admitted this Tuesday that he had been paid €50 for his vote in the elections six years ago, although he clarified that before receiving that money he already planned to support CIUCA, the political party being investigated in this case, at the polls.
JRH also acknowledged that a collaborator, with this party, accompanied him to the police station to renew his National Identity Document (DNI) a few days before the elections were held, although he maintains that it was he who paid the processing costs and not the now-mayor of the municipality, Onalia Bueno, as was reported by one of the CIUCA campaign managers, José Monzón, known locally in the municipality as Pepe el Japones, who was recorded talking to the former mayor Francisco González (PP) in a leaked recording incorporated into evidence.
So far at least two witnesses have declared that they received €50 for their vote, but that their previous intention was always to give their support to CIUCA in the elections. In the case of JRH, his testimony is reinforced with other circumstantial elements. The aforementioned audio of the conversation between the former southern mayor, González, and the El Japones, who said he had been collaborating with Bueno’s party. “I took his identity cards, Paco”, Pepe is heard saying in the recording, in which he admits that he accompanied more than 50 local residents to renew their DNI and that he spent “all day” at the police station to take “to all the chorizos” of Arguineguín.
“That meant safe votes,” he said.
The Guardia Civil’s judicial police team confirmed that JRH renewed his DNI on April 15, 2015, just over a month before the municipal elections. Another statement to the Civil Guard agents, and confirmed on Tuesday, the one that his brother-in-law gave, provides another piece of the puzzle. Witness FJ said that this family member had confessed that he was paid €50 for supporting CIUCA in the 2015 elections and that he voted by mail, highlighting one of the mechanisms on which these investigations have focused due to the sudden exponential increase in the number of postal votes for the last elections and the testimonies of some witnesses, among them the complainant, Ramón Trujillo el Perraya, who has described how the plot operated to buy voting intentions among the lower income residents of the municipality.
In his appearance on Tuesday before the investigating judge, FJ confirmed that it was common knowledge, in the town, that votes were bought in the elections and that some locals even commented that the money was kept “in the streetlights.” One imagine’s meaning that money for this was abundantly available.
This witness told the court that, a few days before the municipal elections, he attended a meeting with the Government Delegation of Spain in the Canary Islands, in May 2019, in his capacity as secretary of the Fishermen’s Association of Arguineguín. In that meeting, in addition to addressing the problems related to his professional sector, he had reported that he’d detected “suspicious movements” in the town of Arguineguín and pointed out a series of people, among them Salvador Álvarez, another under investigation in the case and alleged collaborator with Onalia Bueno, as “habitual in the organisation” in the purchase of votes, as had happened before in the previous elections.
Lawyers for the defence have requested that the accused testify after all the witnesses have been heard, and due to the fact that some witness appearances have been suspended for different reasons the investigating judge has decided to postpone those proceedings until the month of October, despite the fact that statements were scheduled to be heard from the accused as of July 7. So for the moment it looks like this case is set to drag out into at least the autumn.