Marbella town hall to be axed in corruption scandal

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In an unprecedented move, Spain's government said yesterday it would dissolve the local authority in the resort city of Marbella, where the mayor and 10 others have been arrested in a corruption scandal costing billions of euros.

"This government does not tolerate, much less support, corrupt behaviour," said the Deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, who added that the Socialist government's decision was based on the country's general and local election laws.

An investigating judge jailed four lawyers on Monday, bringing to 11 the number of people in prison on provisional corruption charges stemming from property transactions.

The mayor of the southern city, Marisol Yague, and a senior Marbella urban planning official, Juan Antonio Roca, are among those who have been sent to prison.

The suspects face possible charges of laundering money from property developers, who allegedly paid exorbitant amounts for building permits in the Costa del Sol resort area.

Police seized more than €2.4bn (£1.7bn) of property, including helicopters, thoroughbred horses, artwork and antique guns.

Ms Fernandez de la Vega said the government was acting on a request made earlier in the day by the regional government of Andalucia, where Marbella is located.

She added that the government would seek reports from the Senate and a commission that mediates between central and local government before deciding how to proceed.

The formal dissolution of the town hall will be decreed on Friday and will pave the way for an auditors' commission - to be designated by government authorities of the southern province of Malaga - to take over administration of the tourist city.

Ms Fernandez de la Vega said under Spanish law, new elections were not an option because they are due to be held next year.