Football: Gil's glitz losing its shine
Letter From... Madrid
Monday 05 April 1999
The mouthy, overweight tycoon - who is also mayor of glitzy Marbella - is in deep trouble, accused of illegally funnelling at least 450m pesetas (pounds 2m) of Marbella's public funds to his club via faked contracts. It is the most spectacular of a slew of accusations that have been thrown athim since he became boss of the city eight years ago.
Atletico is Spain's only club sponsored by a town hall, and the name Marbella marches in huge letters across players' scarlet-and-white striped shirts. Gil always insisted that the publicity provided to his city by his club was free. But when the state's anti-corruption squad raided a company attached to Marbella town hall last November, they found documents which they claim show the city had been funding "Atleti" by up to pounds 1m a year.
The case was strong enough to send Gil to jail in January, which prompted Atletico to give away all the tickets for that week's match to encourage fans to show up in solidarity with their chairman. Thousands of supporters marched in Marbella: the blonde, the perma-tanned, the wearers of pastel leather jackets more at home in Hola! magazine than street protests, still less football matches.
Gil, 66, walked free within a week on payment of pounds 420,000 bail, pleading a heart condition. He has since toned down his usual foul language and loutish behaviour. But he created a stir last month when he was banned from accompanying his players to Rome for a Uefa Cup match. The judge declined his offer to pay for a police escort.
Police are also investigating the curious case of the Russian statue, "Victory", that sits in Marbella's yacht marina, supposedly a gift from the mayor of Moscow. Gil's local socialist opponents claim that ratepayers paid pounds 600,000 to the sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. They say a confusing trail of paperwork obscures the handover of pounds 130,000 in cash plus three luxury apartments.
Gil's increasingly eccentric political gestures have aroused criticism, too: he recently dragged from the town hall cellar a larger-than-life bronze bust of the former dictator Franco, a gift from Finland in 1967, and installed it in the foyer.
Then he fantasised about paying pounds 600,000 for a decommissioned aircraft carrier from the Falklands war to moor in the bay as a floating casino. It would mean dredging the bay.
Gil has been behind bars before. In 1969 the young property speculator was jailed for five years for criminal negligence after an apartment block he built in Segovia collapsed, killing 58. It had no plans, no architect and no surveyor, and the cement was barely dry. After 18 months, Franco pardoned him. He borrowed money and started again.
Marbella caught Gil's fancy 10 years later while he was staying in a weight-loss clinic. He homed in on property deals with such voracious contempt for planning laws that the socialist council declared him persona non grata. His way round that was to form his own party, the Independent Liberal Group (GIL), and stand for mayor in 1991. He won by a landslide.
He cracked down on street crime and promised to corral prostitutes in a purpose-built "whore-odrome". One August night he descended upon the harbourside with his bodyguards and started haranguing youngsters in the bars: "What a drink-sodden face you've got, sonny. How much have you spent on drugs today? You're dross and I'm going to get rid of you. Slugs!"
Several were injured and a police car burnt in scuffles.
Marbella's income comes mostly from the sale of land and fees for construction projects. Mayor Gil, the most prosperous property entrepreneur in town, earmarked green areas ravaged by forest fires for multi-storey blocks. He courted Middle Eastern, then Russian, millionaires who flocked to Marbella to fling new money into speculative development. Resident jetsetters gasped in horror as walls of concrete blocked their views of the Mediterranean.
His business deals prospered so dramatically that he recently claimed to have lost all respect for money because he had "too much". But now the city is millions of pounds in debt and the state prosecution service wants to know why. Atletico's fortunes may revive, but Gil's glory days could soon be over.
Latest in Sport
Angel Di Maria reveals wish to return to Argentina - but don't worry Manchester United fans...
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Husain Abdullah penalised after celebrating a touchdown with a Muslim prayer - causing mass outrage among fans
Robin van Persie reveals Louis van Gaal wants Manchester United to 'be more Dutch and pull on the same rope'
Manchester United risk Uefa row over plan to play lucrative midweek friendlies
- 1 Green village to be bulldozed and mined for lignite in Germany's quest for non-nuclear fuel
- 2 HeForShe campaign: Iceland to follow up Emma Watson speech with UN women's rights conference – for men only
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Teenagers irritable because early school hours mess with their biological clocks
- 5 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
£50 - £60 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: O...
£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...