Spain's most wanted man is caught

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The Independent Online
FROM ELIZABETH NASH in Madrid

Spain's most wanted man, Luis Roldan, former director of the Civil Guard, was detained last night by Spanish police in a South-East Asian city, thought to be the Thai capital, Bangkok, after having been on the run for nearly a year accused of bribery, fraud and misappropriation of public funds on a huge scale.

Mr Roldan, who in seven years as head of the paramilitary Civil Guard accumulated a vast personal fortune from interior ministry funds, was being flown back to Spain last night and is due to arrive today. He is expected to make a statement to the chief prosecutor in the case, Ana Ferrer, and be sent immediately to jail.

Mr Roldan, 51,who fled Spain on 29 April 1994, was the first civilian head of the Civil Guard. His flight precipitated a political crisis and caused the Interior Minister, Antonio Asuncion to resign. An international warrant for his arrest was issued and hundreds of officials have been scouring South America, Africa and the Far East for him. A spokesman for the ruling Socialist Party welcomed news of Mr Roldan's detention as "good news for everyone".

The Minister of Justice and the Interior, Juan Alberto Belloch, held an emergency meeting with ministers of state last night and was due to give full details to the public today

In the get-rich-quick days of Spain's economic boom of the late 1980s, many prominent figures made swift fortunes. But Mr Roldan's enrichment was seen as obscenely rapid.

He assembled a collection of flats, houses and farms by apparently manipulating contracts for the renovation of Civil Guard barracks. In addition, he is estimated to have squirreled away 5bn pesetas (£25m) in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Far East.

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