Court broadens scope of fishing expedition against Pablo Iglesias

A probe into unsanctioned police ops is being used to launch an all-out legal onslaught against the leader of Podemos

The so-called Tándem-Villarejo case has morphed into something new. To judge by the interest of a good deal of news outlets, it has now become the Dina case. In other words, the case of the stolen phone that belonged to Dina Bousselham, a former aide of Pablo Iglesias back when he was an MEP, and the information from her sim card that was leaked to several newspapers in 2016. Justice Manuel García-Castellón believes that Dina Bousselham and Pablo Iglesias lied to him by pretending to be the target of a “dirty war” waged against Podemos when, in fact, this was merely a fabulation that would have helped Podemos in their election campaign in June 2019. In order to prove all that, the judge has ordered a number of judicial procedures without consulting the Prosecution first. The first one was to send a letter of request to Wales in order to find out in what condition the sim car is presently.

The Welsh authorities replied that, while the sim card is “physically intact”, its contents cannot be retrieved. Then the Spanish judge asked the police to review the complaint filed in Alcorcón by the former aide and her husband, Ricardo Sá Ferreira, on 1 November 2015. Next he issued an injunction for the police to seize the logbook of visits of Spanish media company Grupo Zeta, —whose president, Antonio Asensio, had personally given the sim card to Pablo Iglesias— for the December 2015-January 2016 period. Presumably someone has persuaded the judge that the company’s logbook might reveal who is behind the sim card leaks.

The court has taken further action on its own accord. The latest move was to summon lawyer José Manuel Calvente, who is expected in court on 5 September. Calvente used to work for Podemos but was dismissed and, speaking for conservative Madrid daily El Mundo, he has stated that the phone that was reported stolen and the unsanctioned police operation —allegedly, to smear Podemos— are just a fabrication.

What is the judge aiming for? Justice Manuel García-Castellón is conducting what is known as a fishing expedition: he is trying to find any evidence that proves that Pablo Iglesias either staged the theft or lodged a false complaint that he could capitalise on during his election campaign. The judge himself offered Iglesias the chance to be a plaintiff in the case in March 2019.

What is the problem? Well, neither faking a theft nor filing a false complaint are crimes that fall within the purview of Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court. Justice Manuel García-Castellón knows what must be done in such cases very well because in 2018 he declined to examine a case of false testimony involving businessman Juan Miguel Villar Mir and instead pushed the case down to Madrid’s Provincial Court, as the Audiencia Nacional was not the competent court.

Judicial sources have stated that “there are three legal reasons why the court is not competent: Pablo Iglesias has parliamentary immunity, the crimes are not linked to the substance of the Tándem-Villarejo case and, finally, because Spain’s Audiencia Nacional does not deal with theft-faking or filing false complaints.

Media shock waves

According to judicial sources, the extensive work done on the Dina case by Justice Manuel García-Castellón is in stark contrast with his activities in the relevant investigations into the Tándem-Villarejo case and its smaller sub-cases: BBVA, Iberdrola, Kitchen (Spanish police spying on former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas) or Pérez-Maura, to name a few. Yet every step taken by the judge in the Dina case has sent media shock waves across Spain, no matter how small. The same news outlets that, for many years, benefitted from information leaked by former police superintendent Villarejo are the ones which are now getting the scoop on García-Castellón’s investigative efforts.