The police investigation into how some intermediaries and an adviser to the Andalusian Minister of Health tried to collect a bribe of more than five million euros on a contract worth 19 million is replete with details. A businessman who wanted to sell his product (a hundred briefcases of Covid-19 detection kits that techs said didn’t work) recorded calls, meetings, and emails that he provided to the researchers and which they transcribed into their reports. restore the case.
The three police reports that elDiario.es Andalucía dissects reveal a shameless course of action: apparently spontaneously, the three main investigators (a businessman from Cadiz, Manuel García Gallardo, his sister Ana Maria and Maria Cristina Romero, worked for them —) to contact the biopharmaceutical businessman Felix Guerrero to tell him that if he wants to sell his sets, he must do so with them and on their terms.
They claim to go hand in hand with Guillermo González, who is presented as the chief of staff of the Minister of Health, Jesús Aguirre (in fact, he was an adviser), and assure that he is “not alone in this invention.” In exchange for buying the backpacks, González wants an “incentive for them”: five million euros, which businessman Felix Guerrero had to add to his bill.
This is the story of how this attempt to collect five million commissions from the Junta of Andalusia was born. The attempt fell through after the businessman, who so far prefers to remain silent, denounced the facts. The product, presented without an increase of five million, was rejected at the technical stage. A few months later and after an internal investigation, the Council referred the case to the prosecutor’s office.
September 2020: contact with wife of Elias Bendodo.
Asturian businessman Felix Guerrero knows Elias Bendodo and his family because they lived next door to his summer home in Marbella. In August 2020, as the administration struggled to obtain medical supplies, Guerrero decided to use the contact to present his product in a deviant way: he sent an email to the personal email address of Bendodo’s wife, journalist Elizabeth Orange. .
“Good morning Isaac. Since summer is over and I don’t like to mix things up, I am enclosing the Covid 19 test documentation,” he tells her on September 7. “SAS may be interested in our rapid antibody tests, rapid antigen tests and rapid PCR.”
“I have already given Elias all the information and emails…he says you have his phone number anyway to call him anytime!!! He will look into it and comment with the people from the Ministry of Health,” Naranjo responds on WhatsApp the same day.
“When people ask her about something related to her husband, the procedure they follow is that they tell her and she sends it back to her husband, acting as a transmission mechanism,” Naranjo’s transcript reads. in front of researchers. The UDEF believes that this mechanism served to “shorten” the path to those who must approve or disapprove the purchase. “This cannot be considered a violation in and of itself,” says UDEF, although it qualifies this route as “anomalous.”
The product that Guerrero has is called the Speedy bag. One hundred briefcases with reagents for 100 tests each, which can be replenished as many times as you like. They will allow you to get results quickly and easily at primary health care centers, without having to go to the lab. “High quality low cost PCR,” says its salesperson, who describes it as a “distinctive product on the market.” The case is sold together with reagents and various consumables.
According to the businessman, a day after sending information about the product to Bendodo’s wife Ana María García Gallardo, Guerrero contacts Guerrero and informs him that “they had a mandate from the Andalusian government to supply a Covid test and find out if their company had a product.” availability. There is no documentary evidence of this contact, because Guerrero has not yet begun to record calls.
The appearance of these people on the stage is striking in the moment in which it occurs. Manuel Garcia Gallardo’s company previously had a business relationship with the company where Guerrero had previously worked. At that time (April 2020), Felix Guerrero warned his former boss about the bad reviews of Manuel Garcia Gallardo and claims he never had an affair with him. However, he believes he got the call because of this previous contact. The police have doubts. “It was not possible to find out directly what these people interested in the proposed product look like and how they learned about the product,” say the researchers, who elsewhere in the report seem to opt for a different hypothesis: that they join Operation Notified by Guillermo González. , an adviser to the Minister of Health, in order to make “excessive profits”.
The first contacts between the conspirator and the businessman are made by phone, but on September 14, Ana Maria Gallardo e-mails the result of her first steps towards the Andalusian government: a video conference meeting with the manager of the Valme Hospital Maria Jesus. The couple responsible for the technical evaluation of the product. The meeting takes place two days later.
“What this boy wants is an incentive for them”
September 19 Guerrero receives a WhatsApp from Christina Romero. “It seems the contract is coming along and they are asking us for a budget for Monday morning.” To prepare it, the brokers and Guerrero hold a video conference that is being recorded. When it comes time to talk about money, Manuel Garcia Gallardo takes the weight of the conversation. He says his contact is Guillermo Gonzalez and points out: “What these people are telling us they don’t have, they don’t have… the budget set aside for this because it’s an urgent purchase, they’re going to unlock it without having to do contest or something like that, okay?”.
Then he launches an ordago: “What if… this boy, what he wants, will be an incentive for them, okay? He can’t do it… obviously he can’t… he’s not the only one making this up, okay? We have already performed an operation on him, we sold him other tests that we had…”.
Manuel Garcia Gallardo asks Guerrero to send him an offer without commission. They will forward it to their contact in the Junta Andalusia so that they can determine the amount of this commission. A businessman enters into a contract without knowing how much the bribe will be. But Manuel Garcia Gallardo cooks it up: “Knowing what he did to us on the test, uh… mmm. The guy was a blast, okay? (…) the fact is that my uncle raised him almost twice as much. “I understand that he does this with the permission of someone from above, because he … he has a lot of power, kid.”
Gonzalez stated before the judge that his function was above all protocol, and that he sometimes received proposals by mail, which went to the ministry, to which he then gave the appropriate procedure.
Bite for five million and the reaction of a businessman
On September 21, Felix Guerrero sends Manuel Garcia Gallardo the price of his products, agreed with Korean manufacturers: 19,454,430 euros. And a day later he answers, also by mail: “Dear Felix. We have been working on a Speedy Bag proposal for the Junta of Andalusia and it should be submitted with the following changes.” Basic, new price: 24,457,125 euros. On the same day, the businessman calls Christina Romero, who already feels the reason: “Gone, I know, I know.”
“Tell that to Manuel… there is nowhere to take him,” Guerrero protests. “I think in the end I don’t know what this Guillermo wants, but this is a criminal act.” The businessman already foresees that he will not jump through hoops: “We must not play anyone’s game, someone … I tell you, a moneylender who wants to cheat in the problem of the Andalusian government, Spain, how much people are having fun that someone cashing in on five million euros.” And he tries to pull the string: “I understand that this is Guillermo, does he really have so much power in the board?” “It’s not that… things should be distributed… there are probably a few people there,” they answer. “Don’t you know who they are?” “It’s just on the phone… that’s why I call you on Whatsapp many times (laughs).”
September 23 Guerrero and Cristina Romero talk again. The conversation is replete with phrases with which she tries to convince him of the need for an operation, because it would be something ordinary. “There are topics in which you agree or stay away. The solution is very simple.” “We have two options: look at it from the outside or look at it from the inside.” He also insists there are others involved. “What we know is that when they ask you, it’s because they have to share, right? That they have to share and they’ll never tell you with whom.” “We have to go through the box, because if it’s not us, then it will be others, and everyone goes through the box.”
On the same day, Guerrero sends his offer, increased without reaching the requested amount: 21,072,000, an increase of 1,617,570 euros. At the police station, he ruled out that it was a small commission and explained that it was the result of different “scaling” of the products he ordered from the supplier.
Call to Bendodo: the matter is in the hands of the council
On the same day, September 23, Guerrero also called Elias Bendodo, presidential adviser, to condemn the situation, and then a new phase of the case began: Antonio Sanz (deputy adviser) was assigned to investigate what had happened. performs “not in the most unambiguous way,” according to the researchers. For example, he calls detainee Guillermo González 16 times in a few days and even before contacting the complainant; alerts you (as implied by bulk email deletion); again gives a chance to a product that has already allegedly been rejected for technical reasons; and it takes two and a half months to start a formal investigation, and another three months to refer the case to the prosecutor’s office.
Police believe the operation failed for two reasons. One, that the employer did not take bribes; and second, the product didn’t work and was thrown out by the experts who researched it. Agents point out that the complaining businessman lied about this in some conversations with those in charge of the Council, ensuring his portfolios were checked for Covid “when the exact opposite actually happened.” .
The agents also note that his contacts in the Council allowed him to get a re-analysis of his product. Again, this was negative. His test bags were useless.
For now, UDEF points to Manuel and Ana García Gallardo, Cristina Romero and Guillermo González for alleged crimes against public administration for revealing secrets and private bribery or corruption. Sanz, Bendodo, Aguirre and others mentioned in this information have testified as witnesses in a case that is pending at the Court of Investigation 2 of Seville.
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