By Tony Winterburn •
Published: 07 Mar 2020 • 7:42
A Spanish high court judge has ordered an investigation into the sale of a luxury Jaeger-LeCoultre watch by a former Madrid regional president at the centre of a prominent corruption trial.
Judge Manuel Garcia Castellon opened the probe after police raised suspicions that the sale of an 18-carat watch, valued at €38,000, may have been linked to alleged money laundering by Ignacio Gonzalez, a former Popular Party (PP) leader, and his wife, Lourdes Cavero.
According to a police report, Gonzalez sold the watch at auction in October 2015 for around €19,000, roughly half its real value. Three days later, a cheque for that amount, minus the auction house commission and taxes, was paid into his account. However, no records of any previous transfers were found for the purchase of the watch.
The judge has told the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand in Spain to immediately assist police with information about who originally acquired the watch and the payment method used in order to determine whether it was part of a money-laundering scheme linked to Gonzalez’s other illegal activities.
Gonzalez has already been charged with corruption for channelling public funds from a regional water company, as well as illegal party funding and the misuse of public funds. He was among 12 suspects, including his brother and nephew, arrested in 2017 as part of Operation Lezo, an investigation into corruption at the Madrid regional water utility Canal de Isabel II.
The investigation uncovered alleged illegal party funding through Canal de Isabel II and purchases made by the water company in Latin America, where it allegedly overpaid for business acquisitions using offshore companies in Panama.
In addition to the Operation Lezo case, Gonzalez has also been implicated in other cases, including graft, wiretapping fellow PP politicians, the purchase of a €300,000 penthouse in Marbella using a dummy corporation and cash-for-favours to the construction company, Martinsa. The PP has been embroiled in a host of recent high-profile corruption cases.
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