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Another Spanish mayor held as scandal widens

/ Source: Reuters

Spanish police arrested another town mayor on suspicion of corruption Monday, a police source said, as the flood of scandals accusing public officials of taking kickbacks from builders showed little sign of slowing.

Eugenio Hidalgo, the conservative mayor of Andratx on the tourist island of Mallorca was arrested on suspicion of money laundering and corruption along with one of the Balearic islands’ top planning officials, Jaume Massot.

Nobody at the Mallorca court was immediately available to confirm the arrests, and a police spokesman said there was a court order preventing anybody from commenting on the case.

Mariano Rajoy, leader of the conservative Popular Party, said any member of his party caught acting illegally would be thrown out immediately.

Hidalgo is the third Spanish mayor and one of dozens of public officials arrested this year, accused of granting building permits or re-classifying land in exchange for bribes.

The problem was first exposed in March when police uncovered a web of town hall corruption in the glitzy resort of Marbella, arrested the mayor, her deputy and dozens of others and confiscated property worth $3.2 billion.

In response, the government has introduced legislation to curtail speculation and corruption in a country where building has boomed at an unprecedented rate in the past 10 years.

Over that time, the total area classified as “urban” has grown by a quarter, and whole villages have been swallowed up by massive developments of apartment blocks, particularly near Madrid and on the Mediterranean coast.

So far police have arrested about 70 politicians, civil servants and businessmen in the Marbella probe, which has captivated Spain with tales of councilors’ film-star lifestyles and bribe money arriving stuffed in rubbish bags.

Another mayor was arrested for corruption in the Canary Islands, and police are investigating another south of Madrid after he was caught opening a 1 million euro bank account in Andorra. Thirty golden pens were stashed in his bank safety deposit box.