Spaniards grill get-rich-quick ex-police chief

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The Independent Online
YOU MIGHT think Spaniards would admire a nice rags-to- riches story as much as the next man. The trouble with Luis Roldan's story is that he is accused of amassing his riches from public funds and illegal commissions during his seven years as chief of the paramilitary police, the Guardia Civil.

Hence 50-year-old Mr Roldan's appearance yesterday before a multi-party parliamentary commission to explain how he acquired about pounds 2.5m in cash and property, on an average salary of pounds 36,000 a year.

Mr Roldan, son of a Zaragoza taxi driver, was a timekeeper in a metalworks when he joined the Socialist Party (PSOE) in 1977. He had shown little sign of material wealth until he was named the first civilian chief of the Guardia Civil - it had always been headed by a military officer - in 1986. He resigned last year just before the newspaper Diario 16 published what it said were details of his wealth, apartments, villas and ranches.

The newspaper accused him of receiving commissions for construction and other contracts put out by the Guardia Civil. The paper El Mundo followed up recently, saying Mr Roldan had been drawing a tax-free salary of pounds 36,000 a year from so-called reserved funds, secret government funds presumed to have been set aside to finance intelligence operations. Mr Roldan was asked why his wife, although preferring to fly, had a Guardia Civil officer drive her sports car to Switzerland for her use. Mr Roldan has put his wealth down to money inherited from his taxi-driver father, and shrewd investing. He faced tough questioning before the commission yesterday, particularly from members of the opposition Popular Party (PP), who scent possible blood at a higher level. The Interior Minister, Antoni Asuncion, and the present head of the Guardia Civil, Ferran Cardenal, are expected to appear before the commission today.

Mr Roldan's lawyer said the ex-Guardia Civil chief would not comment on the reserved funds allegations, using an argument of the Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, that the use of such funds is a national secret.

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