Investigators claim Spanish politicians used Irish company as a front

Two men alleged to have been paid €3.3m via Emerald Business Consulting

Gustavo de Arístegui: resigned as Spanish ambassador to India after allegations emerged about his business activities

Gustavo de Arístegui: resigned as Spanish ambassador to India after allegations emerged about his business activities

 

Investigators in Madrid allege that two Spanish politicians used an Irish company as a front to receive bribery payments worth millions of euro.

Gustavo de Arístegui, a former congressman and diplomat, and Pedro de la Serna, a former congressman, are being investigated for allegedly receiving commissions in exchange for obtaining lucrative contracts for Spanish companies operating abroad.

Investigators allege the two men were on one occasion paid €3.3 million via Ireland-based firm Emerald Business Consulting, according to El País newspaper, which obtained the court documents linked to the case.

The allegations are so far unproven and the two men denied them when they were first made in 2015.

The financial crimes unit of the Spanish police has been gathering evidence as part of an investigation into the engineering company Elecnor. Messages in the email account of a senior executive of that firm suggested the €3.3 million payment was a bribe related to the awarding of a contract to Elecnor to manage the Souk Tleta desalination plant in northern Algeria in 2009.

El País reports that Emerald Business Consulting, which has a Dublin address on a corporate listings website, received the payment in an AIB account.

“Emerald Business Consulting is a company that has no commercial motive,” notes high court judge José de la Mata in the court documents.

Dublin address

Emerald Business Consulting is registered at Riverview House, City Quay in Dublin. Its directors are Daniel Cox and Shane Clarke. There is no suggestion that these directors were aware of these payments.

The company’s accounts state that its immediate owner is Vistra SA, a Swiss business whose managing director is Walter Stresemann, whom El País names as Emerald Business Consulting’s chairman.

Vistra, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, offers services ranging from advising wealthy individuals on where to put their money to selling off-the-shelf companies. It has an office in Dublin.

Emerald’s accounts show that it paid Vistra €23,500 for services in both 2015 and 2014.Those figures also show that the Irish company had €93,400 in the bank at the end of 2015.

Mr Cox has been a director since 2007 while Mr Clarke was appointed in September 2016. 

Mr Stresemann’s office said he was not available as he was travelling.

Similar case

Judge De la Mata writes in the court file that Emerald Business Consulting has been linked to a similar case, which in 2010 saw Spanish defence firm Defex awarded a €30 million contract to supply security material to Egypt.

Defex, which is a state company, is also under investigation for contracts it has been awarded by Angola, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia.

According to El País, Judge De la Mata draws a direct link between Mr Stresemann, and the €153 million Angolan contract.

Arístegui and De la Serna were both high-profile figures in Spain’s governing Popular Party (PP).

However, in 2015 both men resigned their posts – Arístegui as ambassador to India, De la Serna as a member of Congress – after allegations emerged about their business activities abroad.

Last year, the high court identified them both as suspects in a corporate bribery probe, although De la Serna continues to work as a lawyer in the interior ministry.

Note: This article was amended on Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 

This article was subject to an upheld Press Ombudsman ruling